December 2011 Issue • Volume 39 • Issue 9

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Obituaries

Deaths

Howard Bernard Kaplan, Texas A&M University, died in Houston, TX, on October 9, 2011.

Pamela L. Tremayne passed away on October 30, 2011, at Piedmont Hospital.

Harold L. Wilensky, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of California-Berkeley, passed away peacefully, at the age of 88, in his home in Berkeley, CA, on October 30.


Obituaries

Mehrdad Mashayekhi
1953-2011

Dr. Mehrdad Mashayekhi was born in Tehran, Iran, and then resided in the United States from 1972 to the present. He received a BA from Case Western Reserve University (CWRU). As an undergraduate at CWRU, his soccer play was so spectacular as to earn him an honored slot in their athletic department’s “Spartan Hall of Fame.” He received an M.A. in economics and later his PhD in sociology from American University.

Mehrdad first came to teach at Georgetown University in the spring of 1988. In many of the ensuing years until now he served full-time with us as a colleague and professor at Georgetown University. He taught roughly 100 courses at Georgetown over those years, even though there were many years where he only taught one or two for us, and even several years in succession when he was, instead, teaching full-time elsewhere (St. Mary’s in Maryland). In all of those teaching efforts at Georgetown alone, Mehrdad taught sociology to well over 3,000 undergraduates, and, via “Introduction to Sociology,” he touched 2,000 students over a near quarter-century. His sociology colleagues at the University of Maryland noted that his efforts for them probably touched a further 4,000 students or more in their institution. Area colleagues at most of the other DC-area universities—George Mason, George Washington, American, and Marymount —could surely add scores if not hundreds more to his record of touching the minds of area college students.

Mashayekhi’s wide scope—a “one-man sociology department” as one colleague dubbed him—made him the perfect colleague to have on campus when courses taught often/normally by others needed to be covered due to leaves or sabbaticals. And there were also courses of his own design and inspiration, often with close attention to events in his native Iran. All in all it was quite an impressive trail of accomplishments, teaching 13 different courses to sociology students over nearly a quarter-century.

Mashayekhi’s research concerned post-revolutionary Iran (i.e., after 1979) and focused on specific subjects such as the student movement, Islamic reformism, civil society and democratization, political culture, and current political affairs. He wrote, published, and spoke to his various publics in both English and Farsi. He was coeditor, with Samih K. Farsoun, of Iran: Political Culture in the Islamic Republic (Routledge, 1992). He followed that in 2007 with a his book, Toward Democracy and a Secular Republic in Iran: Essays in Political Sociology. And his essay, “Culture of Mistrust: A Sociological Analysis of Iranian Political Culture,” appeared in the Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Islamic Thought (2006).

Yet, the truest importance and fame of Mashayekhi almost surely lays outside the confines of writing scholarly books and teaching thousands of students. In his famous essay, “Science as a Vocation,” Weber argued that when a professor steps outside of the classroom setting, he or she could legitimately put aside the robe of the objective scientist, and take up the mantle of the committed citizen embracing political positions. As Weber so forcefully put it, “to come out clearly and take a stand is one’s damned duty.” And thus it was for Mehrdad Mashayekhi. For thousands upon thousands of Iranians, his was one of the most central voices speaking to their deepest concerns, a public intellectual in the fullest sense of the word. In that vocation, he was a regular contributor to Persian television and radio programs on political and social developments in Iran itself, as well as in the Iranian Diaspora. They included the Voice of America, the BBC, Deutsche Welle, and Radio Australia. He remained a highly visible spokesman to and for that community right up through this last summer, until a grave illness finally stilled his brave voice. That largely Farsi-speaking community remembered him in person and in large numbers, as roughly 300 people attended his funeral, and some 500 persons attended a later Memorial Service at Georgetown University on October 23.

Such gifts and contributions are almost surely irreplaceable and he will be sorely missed by us in Georgetown’s Sociology Department, in our case mainly as the deeply collegial, mild-voiced, sweet-tempered, gentle friend and teacher that he was.

Timothy Wickham-Crowley, Georgetown University

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Joseph B. Perry, Jr.
1930-2010

Joseph Bancroft Perry, Jr., 81, died on May 20, 2010, in Bowling Green, OH. Following his retirement from Bowling Green State University after 35 years of service, he held the rank of Professor Emeritus of Sociology. His contributions to the discipline, his department and university, and to his many students throughout the years, were remarkably varied, reflecting his broad intellectual and administrative interests.

Joe was born in 1930 in Dallas, TX, where he grew up except for a short spell in Richman, Va., his mother’s birthplace. At 17 he joined the Naval Reserve, and as a Seaman Recruit he went on the Navy’s Midshipman cruise in 1947. The London he saw was in ruins. On the same voyage, and in great contrast, he visited Gothenburg, Sweden, physically untouched by the war. Later with the Navy he was stationed in Japan where he visited both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These experiences sparked his lifelong interest in disasters and such related phenomena as social movements, revolutions, and social change, in general.

Joe earned his BS at the University of North Texas, his MA from the University of Texas, and his PhD from Washington State University. Professor F. Ivan Nye was his mentor and dissertation advisor. In 1953, in Dallas, he married Frances Blythe Johnson. After raising their three children—Joseph Bancroft Perry III, Wynn Perry, and Paul Perry—Frances returned to graduate school at Bowling Green State University where she earned a PhD in sociology and taught for several years at the nearby University of Toledo. In addition to Joseph (always called “Ban”), Wynn, and Paul, Joe is survived by his two grandchildren (Paul’s children), Monica and Jasper. Also surviving are his siblings, Elizabeth Perry Moritzen and Franklin Perry of Dallas and Mary Perry Dodson of Houston.

Joe’s academic career began as an instructor in 1959 at Bowling Green State University (BGSU). He was very involved in the changes that occurred during the next decade as well as in the direction and growth of the sociology department. He left the University for a short time to teach at Louisiana State University, but in 1965 he returned to BGSU to help build a PhD program. He eventually served as graduate advisor, Chair of the University’s Faculty Senate, and President of the North Central Sociological Association.

Joe’s research interests expanded from disasters as such to collective behavior and social movements more generally. As might be expected as a student of Ivan Nye’s, Joe’s earliest publications were on family-related topics. Yet as early as 1955 he was engaged in work related to the tornado disasters in Waco and San Angelo, TX. Other articles in the 1960s, many with his colleagues at BGSU, reported research on civil defense, fear of nuclear war, migrant workers, race relations, population pressure, and student dissent. These interests continued while on a Fulbright Scholarship at Uppsala University in Sweden, where he and Frances, along with their children, spent the academic year 1967-68. He later published on aspects of intervention and assimilation in Sweden.

Probably Joe Perry’s best-known work consists of a book he authored with his friend and colleague Meredith D. Pugh—Collective Behavior:  Response to Social Stress (1976), which was followed in 1983 by a revised Japanese edition by the same name. At the time of his death, Joe was co-authoring another book with a collective behavior focus, with his friends Arthur G. Neal, Norbert Wiley, and Richard Carpenter, on the turmoil and change during the faculty and student protests at BGSU that led to the resignation of the University’s president, a forerunner of similar protests, and change throughout academe in the 1960s.

Personally, Joe was extraordinarily well liked by colleagues and students alike. His hobbies were first and foremost his love for his children and grandchildren, in which he took great pride. He loved to converse about current events, usually with considerable disdain about the state of his country and the world around him. His general demeanor revealed a gracious Southern manner and soft accent. He was a gentle man most often and appropriately noted for his kindness. His passing has left a noticeable empty place in the lives of his many friends.

H. Theodore Groat, Bowling Green State University

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Robert J. Stevenson
1946 – 2011

Robert Stevenson, a former academic and more recently an independent scholar who published works on deviance, criminology, and military sociology, died unexpectedly on March 17, 2011 at the age of 64 from renal failure and pancreatic cancer.

Bob was born on June 26, 1946, in Astoria, NY. A man of multiple interests, he entered the undergraduate program at SUNY-Stony Brook in 1964 with the intent of gaining exposure to a wide range of academic disciplines. It was Ned Polsky who left the deepest impression on Bob and awakened in him an interest in the areas of deviance and crime and the qualitative approach to sociology. Feeling the need to acquire a deeper understanding of the American experience, Bob left Stony Brook in 1967 to “trek” across the United States, a three-month journey that took him to the University of Hawaii. Still uncertain of his career plans, he decided to pursue two majors, a decision that resulted in his being awarded BA degrees in sociology and economics. With the Vietnam War still in progress, Bob enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. It was during his military service that he made the decision to pursue a career in sociology. While stationed in Texas near the Mexican border, Bob undertook field work that some years later resulted in a book on border town prostitution. With this fieldwork experience in hand, Bob once again became a “Brooker” by entering Stony Brook’s PhD program in December of 1975.

Bob’s academic debts, each related to what he called his “sociological adventure,” are owed to the following:  Ned Polsky impressed upon Bob the need for the study of “active,” that is, uncaught, deviants in their natural settings. Gerald Suttles taught Bob the essentials of fieldwork; and Hanon Selvin and John Gagnon provided Bob with friendship, encouragement, and intellectual stimulation while working on his doctoral dissertation. Having gotten married while at Stony Brook, and faced with the need to support his family, Bob felt compelled to combine work on his dissertation with employment at numerous telephone rooms. Once again, Bob did not fail to take advantage of another opportunity to engage in field work, an opportunity that would ultimately lead to a book on “boiler rooms.”  Bob defended his dissertation in May of 1986 on the topic of the handling of deviance in the U.S. military.

With his PhD in hand, Bob’s first place of employment was as a military sociologist with the Department of Military Psychiatry at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. Following the termination of the research program with which Bob was affiliated, he assumed teaching positions at the University of Maryland-College Park, George Washington University, and Davis and Elkins College in West Virginia. Faced with marital divorce and the uncertainties of securing a stable academic appointment, Bob decided to forgo pursuit of an academic position in favor of the life of an independent scholar, a part-time consultant, and an occasional expert witness.

Bob’s dedication to the sociological enterprise persisted until his final days. One measure of this dedication is found in his numerous contributions to refereed journals as well as to the ASA’s Footnotes. It was the latter which served as a forum for his vision of sociology’s place in academia and the wider context of American society. Always eager to stay in touch with the latest developments in sociology, he eagerly reviewed books in his areas of interest and conducted an avid correspondence with scholars from around the world. He gave selflessly of his time and energy in helping others refine their scholarly work. I, for one, count myself fortunate to have been the beneficiary of Bob’s insightful suggestions.

Especially remarkable is the fact, that without a support structure of a research university at his disposal, Bob succeeded in publishing three monographs of outstanding quality. The Boiler Room and Other Telephone Sales Scams (1998) is grounded in nine years that Bob spent working covertly as a participant-observer in some two dozen telephone rooms. An outstanding contribution to the sociology of deviance, occupations, and field work, it presents an authoritative insider’s view of the staging, manipulation, and concealment devices of a range of organizations of fraud.  A Mexican Border Prostitution Community During the Late Vietnam Era: La Zona (2005), a work honored by the Adèle Mellen Prize for its “distinguished contribution to scholarship,” is somewhat of a novelty in that, unlike most studies of prostitution, it devotes detailed attention to the recreational values, dating preferences, economic constraints, and the heterosexual subculture of the male clientele. Bob’s most recently published book, Organizational Reaction to Social Deviance: The Military Case (2010), is a detailed examination of how and when commanders of the different branches of the military used various sanctions over the course of four decades. Bob’s published works typically focused on the human condition. Always the keen observer, he would write compassionately about people who had fallen on hard times and drifted into lifestyles of deviance.

George Becker, Vanderbilt University 

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