May-June 2009 Issue • Volume 37 • Issue 5

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Carla Beth Howery


Carla Beth Howery

Carla Beth Howery, long time (14 years) Deputy Executive Officer of the American Sociological Association (ASA) died on March 31, 2009 at her home in Takoma Park, MD, at age 58. She spent more than a quarter of a century serving sociologists, students, and society through her work at the ASA.

Carla Howery was a mainstay at the ASA executive office since 1981, only recently retiring due to ill health. She served with four different executive officers, participated in three major moves, and helped in countless ways to shape and enact the mission of the Association. Carla had an encyclopedic knowledge of the institutional history of the discipline and of the ASA. She was a repository of knowledge about and an integral part of many different networks of sociologists across substantive areas, universities, colleges, and levels of seniority. "Carla was a singular light within the ASA for a quarter century," said Executive Officer Sally T. Hillsman. "Her accomplishments on behalf of our discipline were legend, her sense of humor quick and sharp, but never cutting, and her wisdom a touchstone for the myriad sociologists whose lives she touched, many profoundly. The world is now a smaller place."

Carla was committed to supporting all the dimensions of sociology—research, teaching, and public service—and worked tirelessly on behalf of the discipline, its national and regional professional associations, sociology departments, and myriad individual sociologists across the country, meeting each new challenge with an appealing combination of determination, creativity, ability, and humor. She left a legacy of accomplishments and service at the ASA, a gap difficult to fill. "Carla’s embrace of sociology and sociologists was second to none," former ASA Executive Officer, Felice J. Levine, recalled. "She lived every day with wisdom, wit, and willingness to make our discipline and the world a better place. Carla’s legacy will remain a presence in our sociological imagination, in our hearts, and definitely in our sense of humor and proportion, even as we struggle with her absence."

Her name is most commonly linked to the teaching mission of our field. As a graduate student (and Moen’s officemate) at the University of Minnesota in the late 1970s, Carla recognized early on the need for preparing graduate students (i.e., as teaching assistants in the classroom) to launch their own future careers as teachers. She started what was the first teaching training program for graduate students in the nation, as a grassroots effort and then as a formal departmental initiative. Her emphasis on the importance of teaching as well as research remains an integral part of the culture of sociology at the University of Minnesota. Carla’s legacy is the department’s extensive graduate training in teaching, its leadership in integrating service learning into the sociology curriculum, and its well-established and well-used Teaching Resources Center.

Carla received the Outstanding Teaching Award when she worked at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1979. Throughout her career, Carla maintained her strong commitment to preparing graduate students to teach. In 2008, the ASA Section on Teaching and Learning established the Carla B. Howery Award for Developing Teacher-Scholars. Its inaugural awarding will occur at the 2009 ASA Annual Meeting.

Carla’s passion for excellence in teaching continued when she moved to Washington, DC, to work for the ASA; she served as the director of the Teaching Services Program from 1981-90. During that time she developed and institutionalized a number of teaching resources: the wealth of instructional, curricular, and teaching support materials now taken-for-granted by ASA members. As Theodore Wagenaar, Miami University pointed out, "Carla played the single most important role in the history of the ASA’s concrete support for teaching. She began work at the ASA at a crucial time. The teaching projects were underway, funded, and led by Charles Goldsmid and Hans Mauksch, but institutional support via the ASA was still thin. Carla piloted that support and helped create structural legs for the teaching project." He noted that she was "a strong spokesperson for teaching and curriculum issues at professional meetings and at meetings connected with the ASA [and knew] just about everyone engaged in promoting the teaching and learning of sociology."

Carla believed that sociologists could learn from one another, in teaching and research, but also in administration. She was the Director of the Academic and Professional Affairs Program and the Department Resources Group, offering expert consultation to departments, chairs, high school affiliates, and community college teachers. Minnesota’s Jeylan Mortimer recalled "her determination to make the ASA a meaningful, useful association for all sociologists at all types of institutions, not just research universities. She was highly successful in developing programs that reached out to our highly diverse sociological community." Even as an undergraduate at St. Olaf (1968-1972), Carla attended the first meetings of the Sociologists of Minnesota and was one of the founding student members of that organization. She continued to participate in Sociologists of Minnesota annual meetings and in 2007 was honored with a Distinguished Contributions to the Discipline award, created especially for her.

Carla was particularly invested in enhancing the experience of sociology for undergraduate and graduate students. She worked with the MOST (Minority Opportunities through School Transformation) to interest underrepresented populations of undergraduates in sociology, helping 18 departments to achieve their goals of inclusiveness and excellence by restructuring their curricula, research training, mentoring and outreach. She also directed the IDA (Integrating Data Analysis) project, working with faculty to strengthen undergraduate students’ quantitative literacy skills, to use those skills to analyze sociological issues skills, and possibly encourage undergraduates to consider graduate education in sociology. Ed Kain, Southwestern University, said, "Both of these illustrate how her focus was upon all parts of our craft (i.e., teaching, research, public service) and how the structure of the academy can be changed to enhance our field."

Public service was a prominent part of Carla’s portfolio. She co-directed ASA’s Spivack Program on Applied Social Research and Social Policy from 1990-2007, seeking to translate the science of sociology in ways that made sense and was useful to the broader community. Carla also served as advisor to the ASA’s Community Action Research grant program and the Congressional Fellows. She believed in the value of sociological evidence and worked to bring sociological insights and findings to inform policy debates.

Carla was also active in the advancement of higher education as the chair of the Association of American Colleges’ Task Force on the Sociology Major and as a member of the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE) Sociology Task Force on Faculty Roles and Rewards. She also served on the AAHE-ASA Project on Service Learning, and was project director of Preparing Future Faculty in collaboration with the American Association of Colleges and Universities and the Council of Graduate Schools. She authored over a dozen journal articles and book chapters and gave countless talks and workshops at sociology and higher education conferences worldwide.

Carla was a past president of Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS), and, as Mary Zimmerman, University of Kansas, said, "She helped lay the organizational foundations for SWS that brought it from its 1970s-1980s feminist social movement roots into the 1990s as a strong advocacy organization of social science scholars, working to improve the lives of women both inside and outside the academy. SWSers will remember her combination of wisdom and wit—part Eleanor Roosevelt, part Erma Bombeck. No one who witnessed it can ever forget her impromptu stand-up comedy as she deftly played auctioneer for the annual SWS charity fundraiser. Carla has left an incredible legacy."

Carla was also past president of the District of Columbia Sociological Society, served on the board of the National Association of Social Workers, and was the recipient of over a dozen awards for her service to the profession. In August, she will be posthumously awarded the ASA’s Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award.

A longtime member of Christ Lutheran Church in DC, Carla served twice as Vice President of the church council and served as President, Vice-President, and Board Member of the Transitional Housing Corporation (which her church co-founded), a faith-based, non-profit that provides housing and comprehensive support services to homeless and at-risk families. She received their first Outstanding Volunteer Award in 2003. Characteristic of Carla’s commitment to service, one of the first things she did after retiring from ASA was to train to be and serve as a Stephen Minister, a lay minister who provides one-on-one Christian care to others. Even in illness, Carla served others.

Following her diagnosis and first treatment for breast cancer at the age of 44, and particularly after its recurrence in 2000, Carla devoted increasing amounts of her seemingly boundless time and energy to breast cancer volunteer work. She dealt with her health challenges as both a cancer survivor and a sociologist, serving on several grants panels, including for the Komen Foundation; conducting training sessions for agency staff receiving Komen funding; lecturing medical students and potential donors; and as an active member of several breast cancer advocacy organizations, which sometimes involved trips to the Hill to gain funding support for breast cancer research and treatment.

Carla regaled her friends with philosophical updates that offered both reader and sender a sense of perspective, reminding us that cancer was only a part, and often a small part, of her life. Her "Cancer Chronicles," were, as Kerry Strand, Hood College, observed, "full of keen insights, moving reflections, and—true to form—witty comments and hilarious stories that left her devoted readers laughing through their tears. Friends were also left with a deepened understanding of the cancer experience and the oft-ignored sensitivities of those who are dealing with cancer." Carla wrote, "Cancer is a growth, not a growth experience," and she insisted that she not be defined by her disease. Her many personal interests—knitting, reading groups, theater, and travel—nurtured new and old friendships.

Carla Beth Howery was born in Cedar Rapids, IA. She was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of St. Olaf College and did advanced graduate work at the University of Minnesota and the University of Pennsylvania. She was preceded in death by her father, Victor I. Howery; and her sister, Marcia Howery, who died of breast cancer last spring. She is survived by two beloved sons, Andrew Victor Fremming and Kevin Carl Fremming; her mother and stepfather, Garnett Graf and Edwin Graf; and a multitude of friends, colleagues, and relatives from all over the country. Margaret Andersen, University of Delaware, reflected that "even in her death, Carla has continued to teach us lessons about the importance of nurturing our friendship networks and facing life’s adversities with both courage and good humor." A memorial service will be held August 9 at 8:00 pm at the ASA Annual Meeting.

Phyllis Moen, University of Minnesota, and Maxine Atkinson, North Carolina State University


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