ASA Member Reaches 50-year Membership Milestone
ASA member Ruth Love joined the Association in 1958
Ruth Love came to the United States as a young child when her parents left Austria in 1938. The family originally settled in the Pittsburgh area, but they later relocated to the Seattle region after World War II. The beautiful outdoor scenery and skiing opportunities had appealed to Love. Love’s father found a managerial position with the Boeing Company.
Love’s first academic fascination was with journalism when she arrived at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. She later wanted to pursue a degree in political science. However, her father disapproved of this choice because he did not think one should rely on government for a professional career. Father and daughter eventually compromised when Love chose sociology as her field of study.
What attracted Love to sociology was the empirical nature of the field. A hypothesis must be tested with data; no generalizations should have a place in research according to Love. “Social change is much faster than we as sociologists have realized,” said Love. “Every change has brought social implications. But we have to be careful about making hard-and-fast generalizations about society, because the conditions that permit these generalizations may change.” After her undergraduate experience at Reed College, Love crossed the country to attend graduate school at Columbia University in the fall of 1958.
Once Love completed her graduate studies at Columbia, she returned to the Pacific Northwest and landed a teaching position at Reed College. It was not an easy decision since she gave up an opportunity for a fellowship at the National Institute of Mental Health. Love took over John Pock’s position while he was on sabbatical. It was Pock who recommended that she join the American Sociological Association when she was a student at Reed College. Love’s first ASA Annual Meeting exposure was in 1958 at the University of Washington campus in Seattle.
After serving a year on the faculty at Reed College, Love decided that teaching full time was not the best career choice for her. She would have part-time teaching stints at Portland State University and Lewis and Clark College, where she enjoyed teaching courses on urban and rural sociology. In addition, she developed a passion for environmental research and conservation efforts. Due to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, there was a demand for professionals with a social science background to study the social consequences of land use decisions. Without any training in the environmental studies field, she was able to pursue various consulting projects involving conservation policies. She volunteered to review an environmental impact study done by the local forest service department on behalf of the local Sierra Club chapter. The agency was investigating the environmental and socioeconomic ramifications of the development of a tourist tramway in the Columbia River Gorge.
Love eventually applied for a position in the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers in 1975. While she served in the federal civil service, she analyzed environmental impact studies. After her experience with the Army Corp of Engineers, Love became an environmental specialist for the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) in 1981. During that time, there was a severe drought in the northwest region of the country that affected power supply to residents. Several U.S. senators and representatives from the region drafted a bill promoting energy conservation efforts to address the drought and the oil supply shock of 1979-80. Congress passed a bill, the Pacific Northwest Electric Power Planning and Conservation Act, which called for conservation measures and adaptation of renewable energy resources such as wind and solar power. Love’s new employer, the BPA, instituted many environmental studies as a result of federal policy. While at the BPA, Love also researched the effects of a radioactive substance called radon and how this naturally occurring emission from the Earth’s surface impacts human health in enclosed quarters.
After her experience with the BPA, Love decided to seek retirement. Within the ASA, she was active with the Sociological Practice Committee, serving as a chair and producing a monthly newsletter for members of the committee. Love was also influential in reviewing the ASA Ethics Code from a sociological practice perspective. She still keeps her membership active in ASA 50 years later.
Love currently serves as a volunteer reader at elementary schools in the Portland school district and she enjoys occasional international travel.