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Althea M.I. Wagman, research psychologist who was an expert in schizophrenia and sleep disorders, dies

Althea M.I. Wagman, a research psychologist who enjoyed puffing on the occasional cigar, specialized in schizophrenia and sleep disorders and was remembered for her wit and the ability to draw a smile.
Althea M.I. Wagman, a research psychologist who enjoyed puffing on the occasional cigar, specialized in schizophrenia and sleep disorders and was remembered for her wit and the ability to draw a smile.

Althea M.I. Wagman, a retired research psychologist who was an expert in schizophrenia and sleep disorders, died Sept. 18 from dementia at the Springwell Senior Living Community in Mount Washington. The former longtime Bolton Hill resident was 86.

The former Althea Margaret Iliff, daughter of David Gerard Iliff, a mechanical engineer, and his wife, Althea Devecmon Wimbrough Iliff, a homemaker, was born in Knoxville, Tennessee.

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Because of her father’s work, her family moved frequently and she was raised in Wichita, Kansas, Little rock, Arkansas, Cambridge City, Indiana, and Westchester, New York.

After graduating from high school, she enrolled at William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Virginia, where she earned a bachelor’s degree and met and fell in love with William D. Wagman, whom she married in 1954.

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Dr. Wagman obtained both a master’s degree from Southern Illinois University and a doctorate in psychology, also from SIU, in 1966.

She and her husband, a psychologist, moved to Bolton Hill in 1966, and three years later, she joined the faculty of Towson University where she taught until 1975. during this time, she was also an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the university of Baltimore.

Primarily a research psychologist with a specialty in schizophrenia and sleep disorders, Dr. Wagman was a research associate professor in the department of psychiatry at the university of Maryland in Baltimore. She also had a laboratory at Spring Grove State Hospital Center in Catonsville at the Maryland Psychiatric Center where she worked from 1975 to 1984.

Dr. Wagman was an expert on sleep and its importance, explaining once explaining in The Sun that it takes about 17 minutes for the average person to fall asleep.

In a 1969 Evening Sun news story, she explained that sleep disorders were linked to “tooth-grinding, bed-wetting, snoring, frequent awakening, waking up too early, and not falling asleep easily.”

In 1985, she was named acting chief of the neuroimaging and electrophysiology research program at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, and then was promoted to chief of its schizophrenia research, a position she held until retiring in 1995.

“Dr. Wagman was a major researcher of brain-behavior relations, introducing electroencephalogram to the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center in the 1970s,” said Dr. Milton Strauss, a colleague, who was a co-author of many of her research articles, and lives in Corrales, New Mexico. "She then played a significant role as a senior administrator of the NIMH schizophrenia research grants program. She was a generous collaborator and colleague.'

He added: “Althea was a friend to me and to many, whose wit brought smiles to all of us.”

Dr. Wagman was a member of the Maryland State Board of Psychologists.

After retiring in 1995, she and her husband moved to Mater Manoeuvre Farm in Fort Littleton, Pennsylvania, where they farmed the land, maintained organic gardens, tended orchards and raised their chickens, pigs and cows which they used for food.

In addition to working in her garden and canning, she loved caring for her many cats and dogs and doing needlepoint. She also liked entertaining family and friends, attending parties and and cooking.

Dr. Wagman also liked puffing away on Schimelfenig cigars, said a daughter, Althea Susan Wagman Bolster of Boston.

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For the last seven years, she had lived at Springwell Senior Living Community.

Her husband died in 2012.

A private family celebration of her life was held in early October.

In addition to her daughter, Dr. Wagman is survived by a son, David Wolfe Wagman of Corvallis, Oregon; another daughter, Idalee Wagman DiGregorio of Mount Washington; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

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