May/June 2012 Issue • Volume 40 • Issue 5

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Irving Louis Horowitz , professor emeritus at Rutgers University, died on March 21, 2012, in Princeton, NJ, at the age of 82.

Harriet B. Presser , Distinguished University Professor of Sociology and the founding Director of the Center on Population, Gender, and Social Inequality at the University of Maryland-College Park, died on May 1.


Joseph S. Vandiver

Joseph S. Vandiver, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Florida, passed away on March 12, 2012, at his home in Columbia, SC, just weeks before his 93rd birthday.

Van was born in Moorhead, MS, on March 31, 1919, to Joseph Sloan Vandiver, Sr., and Laura Blanche Feemster Vandiver, both dedicated educators. His mother was an elementary school teacher; his father created the first Junior College in the South and served as Mississippi State Superintendent of Public Education from 1936-1945.

Van received his BA in History from Millsaps College in 1940, and, after one year teaching in secondary schools, he spent three years proudly serving our country in World War II. Achieving the Army rank of TEC 4, he was part of the campaigns in Algeria-French Morocco, Tunisia in North Africa, and Rome Arno and the North Apennines in Italy. Back from the war, he continued his education, receiving his PhD in sociology from Louisiana State University (LSU) in 1948.

After teaching at LSU, Vanderbilt, and Oklahoma State University, he joined the Department of Sociology at the University of Florida in 1962. There he served as the Chair of the Sociology Department from 1964-67 and as the Graduate Coordinator from 1972-88. Van’s area of specialization was demography, with a special focus on the lives of poor people in the rural south. He retired from the University of Florida in 1989 but continued to teach part time through the fall of 1995.

Van typified what Robert K. Merton called the “local leader.” He will be remembered for his enthusiasm and as one for whom departmental service was a central part of the professorial calling. He was a masterful teacher and probably taught “Introduction to Sociology” to more young Floridians than any other scholar in the state. In 1996, his colleagues in the Sociology Department honored him by establishing the J.S. Vandiver Teaching Assistant of the Year Award, which is given annually to a graduate student to recognize outstanding instructional performance.

Throughout his life, J.S. Vandiver championed human rights. His passionate dedication to social justice was a source of inspiration to generations of his students, who looked to him as a model for their lives as citizens no less than for their intellectual development. Van helped inspire many faculty and graduate students with an infectious love of teaching. Naturally modest and always able to see the good in individuals, Van was always in a good mood. His creative intelligence, selfless generosity to others, and wonderful gift for recounting history (in a charming southern drawl) won him a wide circle of admirers and not a single known detractor. He will live on through the good works of the scores of students and colleagues whom he inspired.

Van’s wife, Marylee Mason Vandiver, predeceased him by 25 years. He is survived by his daughters, Margaret (Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Memphis) and Elizabeth (Associate Professor of Classics at Whitman College), one sister, one niece, three nephews, and his dear friend Joseph Wider of Columbia, SC. 

Michael L. Radelet, University of Colorado. An earlier version of parts of this obituary was published in the Gainesville Sun, March 16, 2012.

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