November 2010 Issue • Volume 38 • Issue 8

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Thomas Ely Lasswell

Professor Emeritus Thomas Ely Lasswell, Sr., a national leader in the sociology of family, 30-year University of Southern California (USC) scholar, and former chair of the department of sociology, has died. He was 90. Lasswell died due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease in Los Angeles on Dec. 20, 2009.

"My father was a great storyteller and could speak on any subject," said Lasswell’s son, Thomas Lasswell, Jr., of Carson, CA. "He had a natural way of making people feel comfortable. He was a very friendly person and put people at ease."

Joining the College faculty in 1959, Lasswell retired in 1989. In the mid-60s, he served as chair of the Department of Sociology, and in the early ’70s, was director of the USC Marriage and Family Therapy Center. The Latin-speaking professor also served as Director of the College’s Resident Honor’s Program.

Lasswell made substantial contributions in the area of social stratification. Among other things, he coordinated a monograph series in stratification in which specialists in the field summarized and presented their latest findings.

He wrote and co-wrote numerous scholarly works, including Class and Stratum (1965), an analysis of Weber’ s status and lifestyle dimensions; When Architects Talk to People (with Neal Deasy in1985); and Marriage and the Family (1987), which he wrote with his then-wife Marcia Lasswell. His books were widely adopted in college courses.

Born in St. Louis, MO, on October 29, 1919, Lasswell graduated from Kennett High School at age 14 and earned a bachelor’s in languages from Arkansas (now Lyon) College. He joined the U.S. Navy in 1940, earned an engineering certificate at Columbia University and taught courses in sonar while serving on a submarine chaser with the Atlantic fleet. As World War II ended, he was transferred to Point Mugu Naval Air Station in Ventura County as acting commandant.

In 1945, Lasswell entered graduate school at USC, earning an MS in mathematics. He taught math at Pomona High School while earning his PhD in sociology at USC College in 1953. Lasswell taught at Pepperdine University and Grinnell College before joining USC faculty.

In addition to Thomas Lasswell, Jr., he is survived by children Jane Hoff of Hilo, HI; Julia Dunn of Los Angeles; his former wife Marcia Lasswell of Los Angeles, and his grandchildren.

Pamela Johnson, University of Southern California College

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Lynn Michelle Mulkey

Lynn M. Mulkey was a dedicated teacher, an accomplished and driven scholar, and a passionate sociologist. She had a penchant for fast cars, yet minimalist living. She loved the ocean, making jaunts on the beach a daily ritual when possible. She died of peritoneal cancer on February 13, 2010, in her daugther’s arms, Dr. Anna Giocondo of Fairway, KS.

Lynn was born in Brooklyn, NY, on March 27, 1949, and grew up in Ventura, CA. She founded the Paw Print, her high school newspaper, and met Dennis Jay Mulkey, her future husband, at the Westinghouse Science Competition. They married and moved to New York City to continue their education and raise their daughter.  

After her divorce, Lynn completed her education in record time while collecting numerous awards: BA Summa Cum Laude at Hunter College, CUNY in 1981; MS in Education also at Hunter College in 1982; PhD at Columbia University in Sociology of Education in 1985. Later, she obtained certification in evaluation research as a Fellow of the National Institute of Mental Health at UCLA in 1992.

Between 1985 and 1995, Lynn worked at the New York City Board of Education as an evaluation associate. This foundational experience would be invaluable in her research. Her first academic position was at Hofstra University. In 1995, she moved to the University of South Carolina-Beaufort as Associate Professor of Sociology. Here she would flourish not only in the discipline, but also as an engaged citizen of Lowcountry. She served on local boards, participated in community outreach projects, consulted on evaluation panels, and wrote reports and appeared as expert witness in many cases. Lynn’s work testifies to her deep involvement in her adopted community of Hilton Head and South Carolina, for which she was handsomely recognized, including the State of South Carolina Service Award.  Lynn’s service to University of South Carolina was equally extensive—she received awards including the Carolina Governor’s Distinguished Professor Award in 2004 and 2005, the University of South Carolina Board of Trustees Professorship Award, and the President’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to Teaching, Research and Community Outreach.

Lynn Mulkey’s contributions to sociology focused on education, evaluation systems, and theory. As her students were a priority, she published two textbooks: The Sociology of Education: Theoretical and Empirical Investigations (1993) and Seeing and Unseeing Social Structure: Sociology’s Essential Insights (1995). She was prolific, publishing over 50 articles in journals, edited volumes, and monographs; another 40 reviews; and almost 60 reports. At the time of her death she was working on over a dozen papers. She preferred to work with colleagues; her co-authors included Anthony Buttaro, Sophia Catsambis, Robert Crain, William Dougan, J.P. Glasson, Randolph Hawkins, Pamela Koch, and Lala Carr Steelman. Throughout her career, Lynn received fellowships and grants from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and National Endowment for the Humanities. During the last years of her life, she was working on a collaborative project with Lala Steelman and Sophia Catsambis on ability grouping in the early grades, funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

We will miss Lynn. She was always the sociologist, never missing an opportunity to use sociological perspectives to analyze an issue in the world. More importantly, she always saw the best in people; she was an extremely kind and patient professor, colleague and friend. The University of South Carolina has established an endowed scholarship in honor of Professor Lynn Mulkey. Donations to her living legacy are warmly welcome at any time.   

Anny Bakalian, Graduate Center, CUNY; Sophia Catsambis, Queens College and Graduate Center, CUNY; and Lynn Rapaport, Pomona College

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Tam Tran

Tam Tran, a graduate student at Brown University, spoke at the opening plenary session at the 2009 ASA Annual Meeting on how she used film to expose the plight of undocumented immigrant students. Tam was a nationally recognized leader of the movement for undocumented immigrant students. She tragically passed away at the age of 27 on May 15, 2010, at the hands of an intoxicated driver.

Tam Tran was born in Germany on October 30, 1982. Although Tam Tran was Vietnamese, she had never been to Vietnam. After the fall of Saigon, Tam’s parents were forced to flee Vietnam by boat. While most were rescued at sea by Americans, Tam’s parents were rescued by the German navy. They were relocated and lived in Germany as refugees where Tam and her brother, Lolly, were born.

The Tran family came to the United States when Tam was 6 years old to reunite with family members who had settled in California. Her parents applied for political asylum, but their request was denied because they emigrated from Germany, not directly from Vietnam. The family received a withholding of deportation, but this does not lead to legal residency or U.S. citizenship. And although Tam spent more than 20 years in this country, the U.S. government refused to give her and her brother legal status. So Tam was not only undocumented, but she was stateless, a victim of a disgraceful immigration morass.

Tam and Lolly grew up in Garden Grove, CA. She graduated from Santiago High School, attended Santa Ana College, and transferred to UCLA. She worked multiple jobs while carrying a full load of classes, but she was also a powerful student leader and activist. While at UCLA, Tam found her home with IDEAS, the support organization for undocumented immigrant students. She was a gifted filmmaker who produced acclaimed documentaries that have been screened nationally, capturing the plight of undocumented immigrant students.

Tam graduated from UCLA in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in American Literature and Culture and with Latin, Departmental, and College honors. Following graduation, Tam and her good friend Susan Melgarejo worked at the UCLA Labor Center as Public Allies. Tam and Susan were our teaching assistants for the first course ever offered on undocumented immigrant students, and her story was featured in our student publication: Underground Undergrads, UCLA Undocumented Immigrant Students Speak Out. This year, our students will publish a new book that celebrates the life and contributions of Tam Tran and her good friend and fellow undocumented student activist Cinthya Felix.

I had the opportunity of traveling with Tam on speaking engagements to promote Underground Undergrads throughout California, Nevada, Washington, DC, and New York. Each time, she spoke with eloquence, grace, and power. And each time she spoke, I could see people visibly moved by her testimony, and her ability to recruit them to support this historic and righteous movement of immigrant youth and students.

Tam became one of the leading advocates nationally for the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrant students. Tam courageously testified before the U.S. Congressional Immigration Subcommittee on May 18, 2007. Three days later, ICE agents staged a pre-dawn raid on her family’s home and took her parents and brother into custody. It was Tam who reached out to members of Congress, to immigration attorneys, and organized to have her family released and to stop their deportation. Even in the midst of this ordeal, she kept her focus and told me, "My family is one of the lucky ones. Most immigrants don’t have access to Congress and immigration attorneys and just disappear."

Tam applied to top PhD programs nationwide, and was accepted to UCLA, University of California-Berkeley, University of Michigan, Yale, and Brown. While public institutions are legally barred from granting financial assistance to undocumented immigrants, both Yale and Brown offered her generous scholarships. Tam entered the PhD program in American Civilization at Brown. She joked with us, "Maybe if I get a PhD in American Civilization they will finally let me become an American."

It was not easy for Tam to uproot from Southern California, and to leave behind her friends and family. The transition to Brown was challenging, but Tam built a new network of friends and was not only excelling academically, she was pursuing her leadership and advocacy on the DREAM Act. She founded the Brown Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, and helped launch the first statewide network of undocumented immigrant youth and students. She mobilized student contingents at marches in Washington, DC, and lobby visits to the Rhode Island congressional delegation and statehouse.

Tam Tran was a woman of awesome beauty, both externally and internally. She was kind, generous, compassionate, and humble to a fault. She loved her family very much and was especially close to her mother, who taught her to be strong yet compassionate. And while Tam was a brilliant woman with boundless determination, she also enjoyed life to its fullest. She loved travel, music, and food, and made lifelong friends who were always there for her. And she was there for them. Tam had a smile and easy laugh that would light up a room, and when she would tilt her head, and her eyes would look up, you knew that she was contemplating, planning, and strategizing for her next adventure or her next project.

Tam was a hero and a role model for thousands of immigrant youth and students. In her short life, she touched so many people throughout the country. I will forever be grateful for having Tam as my student, but she was also my teacher and friend. I will forever cherish the times we spent together, and I will pledge to do all I can to carry on the work she left behind.

Kent Wong, UCLA Labor Center

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