September/October 2015 Issue • Volume 43 • Issue 6

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Obituaries

Leonard Gordon
1935-2014

Professor emeritus Leonard (Len) Gordon, a founding member and former dean of the Emeritus College at Arizona State University (ASU), passed away March 4. He was 79.

A vital member of the emeritus community, elected senator to the University Academic Senate Executive Committee, and chair of the student faculty policy committee for 2014-2015, Gordon first joined the university in 1967. He taught and did research with ASU’s Department of Sociology, now part of the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics, and he received grants from the National Science Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and other funding sources.

Gordon published articles and books primarily in the area of collective behavior and social movements. He penned two books, Sociology and American Social Issues and A City in Racial Crisis: Detroit Pre and Post the 1967 Riot, in addition to published articles in professional journals and the Encyclopedia of Sociology.

Following his nine years as chair of sociology, Gordon then served as the associate dean for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for 11 years, followed by six years as the dean of the Emeritus College, where he worked to advance the college’s programs “as a benefit to the many talents of our emeritus faculty and to the university community.”

An avid educator and as dean of the Emeritus College, Gordon continued to teach courses, ranging from an examination of collective behavior and mass media and keys to healthy aging and the changing dynamics of our growing older population, to national and international perspectives through the lens of sport and politics. He contributed to the 2013 Project Humanities “Humor…Seriously” series, exploring human humor and the link between witty silliness and sociology. Most recently, Gordon took his interest in social behavior, sports, and politics to the community through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, where he taught a continuing education course that examined sports as a vehicle for social cohesion.

Gordon earned history degrees at University of Michigan and Wayne State University, where he also completed his doctorate in sociology.

“Len was a wonderful colleague and friend and will be deeply missed,” said Elmer Gooding, dean of the Emeritus College. “He was unselfishly willing to help others and to serve in whatever capacity he was needed. His positive impact on ASU was felt wherever he served – whether it was in the former Sociology Department, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the University Senate, or the Emeritus College. ASU is clearly a better place because Len spent over four decades of his career here.”

Outside of university and community work, Gordon was a sports enthusiast. He played competitive softball and was a fan of the Detroit Tigers and the University of Michigan Wolverines. He also wrote a memoir of his life with his wife, Rena, upon her passing, as part of the Virginia G. Piper creative writing program. He also established the Len and Rena Gordon “Spunky” Award, which is presented each academic school year to a student who has shown “spunk” in overcoming obstacles to succeed as an undergraduate. He is survived by his wife, Dorthy.

A colleague once wrote that the Emeritus College owes its inception and follow-through to a number of people, “but certainly at the top of that list is Len Gordon. He is public image, negotiator, wise old professor, and he never asks something he is not willing to do.”

A memorial service for Gordon took place March 8, and a special issue of the Emeritus College Newsletter will be devoted to Gordon later this year. Memorial donations are being given to the Len and Rena Gordon “Spunky” Award fund (asufoundation.org/spunkyaward).

Adapted from asunews.asu.edu/20150310-leonard-gordon-passes by Peggy Coulombe, Arizona State University Office of the Provos.

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Randy Hodson
1952-2015

Randy Dale Hodson passed away on February 26, 2015, at the age of 62, following a valiant battle with cancer. Randy is survived by his beloved wife, Susan Rogers, and cherished daughters Debbie Mei (13) and Susie Xin (11), parents Warren and Erma Hodson, brother Robert Hodson, as well as many admirers, friends, collaborators, and students who loved him and now miss him dearly.

There are so many intellectual accomplishments and imprints that Randy made on our field, including 9 authored or edited books, 100 plus refereed articles, many large grants, teaching and research awards, and two editorships. We feel it important to share the deep and enduring mark that Randy made on us as well as many of his students, collaborators, and friends. With amazing humility, Randy gently bestowed dignity on anyone who crossed his path. Perhaps such gifts, and Randy’s approach to others, were driven by his burning sociological interest in human dignity and worth. Or, just maybe, his sincere and ever-present care for others emanated from something deeper within him as a person. We believe it was both, reflected in his work, to be sure, but also in the interpersonal connections he forged in his nurturing of others—connections and nurturing that he held so very dear.

Randy completed his BS in sociology from University of Wyoming-Laramie in 1975 before moving into the graduate program in sociology at University of Wisconsin under the supervision of Robert Hauser and scholars such as David Featherman, Erik Wright, Charles Halaby, Sheldon Danzinger, and William Sewell. Sensing limitations in dominant strands of status attainment and more monolithic class approaches, perhaps owing to both his graduate training and his experiences in low-status jobs, Randy became convinced that proximate structural dynamics within local labor markets were central to the well-being of workers and their identities. Making this case within the field was his first major intellectual accomplishment.

Landing a job as an assistant professor at University of Texas-Austin in 1980 and breaking new ground with his dissertation work, he published several core articles, including “Labor in the Monopoly, Competitive, and State Sectors of Production” (Politics & Society 1978), “Companies, Industries, and Measurement of Economic Segmentation” (American Sociological Review 1984), and a series of related pieces with collaborators and friends Neil Fligstein, Robert Kaufman, Paula England, to name a few. This work fundamentally transformed conceptions and modeling in inequality research. Randy’s penetrating and career-long interest in this, and in the labor process, dignity, and inequality more generally, began with such work, but probably really germinated from the job experiences he had as a youth and by his observations of workers around him.

Randy’s concerns regarding workplace dignity, his deep appreciation for the workplace ethnographic tradition, and his understanding that the workplace is a contested domain ultimately led to his watershed and transformative project—the Workplace Ethnography Project. He started this project as part of a graduate research practicum with his move to Indiana University in 1986 and then continued it following his move to Ohio State University in 1996. Ambitious and creative in its design, and meticulous and rigorous in its execution, Randy, along with a team of collaborators (Vincent Roscigno, Andrew Martin, Steve Lopez) and graduate students (Martha Crowley, Lindsey Chamberlain, Dan Tope, Marc Dixon), sought and blended the rich insights of hundreds of workplace ethnographies with the comparative leverage that content coding and related analyses would allow.

The result of these efforts included, Randy’s now classic Dignity at Work (2001), and no less than 30 important solo and collaborative articles on workplace dignity, resistance, and inequality, as well as his Analyzing Documentary Accounts (1999)—a “must read” for anyone interested in systematizing qualitative materials. While there are many deep sociological lessons within this body of work, the most essential lies in Randy’s conclusion that workers—often through acts of resistance—pursue dignity in their everyday work lives and efforts. Dignity is nevertheless fragile and can be undermined or bolstered in an ongoing way by unique configurations of workplace structures and relations, particularly interactions with immediate supervisors.

Randy enjoyed and felt honored in his connections to others, often going out of his way to make sure that the person sitting across the table felt respected and appreciated. This included his students, who recognized immediately Randy’s passion for mentorship and teaching—something Randy engaged in even when he knew his time was growing shorter. It is thus no surprise, that Randy was a celebrated teacher (winning The Ohio State University’s prestigious Alumni Distinguished Teaching Awardin 2001) while also penning (with Teresa Sullivan) one of the most recognized and appreciated undergraduate textbooks, The Social Organization of Work. Randy also received The Ohio State University’s prestigious Distinguished Scholar Award in 2007, the Sociology Department’s Outstanding Faculty Award in 2014, the OOW section’s Max Weber (1999) and W. Richard Scott Awards (2005), and the IPM section’s Robert M. Hauser Distinguished Scholar Award(2014).

Randy’s astounding blend of superb teaching and excellence in research was rare enough. Even rarer was his grace and humility, the fact that he considered himself privileged to teach and mentor, and that he constantly sought ways to subtly nurture others within his department and the field. In addition to his mentoring, what his friends and collaborators will note is that Randy never lost sight of the human being sitting beside him, how their life was going, and how he himself might connect to, appreciate, and learn from them.

Randy also broadly engaged questions about social inequality and, appreciating the need to address the societal, organizational, and individual levels, linked personal biographies to public issues in sociological tradition. At the societal level, he looked beyond the United States to a range of other countries—for instance, in his work with Dan Cornfield on work and labor processes cross-nationally; his research with Garth Massey, Duško Sekulić, and Robert Kunovich on ethnic conflict and war in Yugoslavia; and attention to economic transformation and inequality in China with Lisa Keister. Randy brought a flair for thoughtful conception coupled with a deep concern for how sociology might inform how real people are impacted.

For all of his recognitions and visibility at Ohio State and in the field more broadly, Randy remained incredibly humble, preferring to avoid the limelight. This hardly meant, however, that he shirked service to the field. Randy reviewed for countless journals, served on the editorial boards of American Sociological Review, Administrative Science Quarterly, Work & Occupations, Work, Employment & Society, Sociological Quarterly, Advances in Applied Sociology, and the International Journal of Management Studies and Research, served as a council member for the OOW section, and led the charge in forming the Inequality, Poverty and Mobility Section of the ASA. Randy served for 10 years as the editor of Research in the Sociology of Work (1996-2006) and for three years as co-editor of the American Sociological Review (2007-09). The task, as he saw it, was to nurture creative, rigorous, and important work in the field and to offer all scholars valuable, hopefully nurturing, and timely feedback. Randy was very proud, albeit often quietly, of the role he played in these regards.

We will truly miss Randy, his impact, and the place he occupied as an intellectual leader as well as his presence as a dear colleague and friend in our own lives. Indeed, Randy was a warm and kind person, unassuming in character, and deeply appreciative of others. Beyond all else, Randy was a proud, loving, and deeply engaged partner to Susan and father to Debbie and Susie. Randy and Susan’s adoption of Debbie and Susie, and his role as a father, fundamentally enriched Randy’s love for life. Randy’s delight in his children was easily gleaned from the joyous and fulfilled look in his eyes when he shared stories about them; watching his daughters grow, laugh, and flourish clearly bolstered his optimism and sense of the future. We, Randy’s friends, now move forward with his family as best we can and carry such optimism within us too with Randy as a model for the ways in which we should conduct ourselves, with humility, and approach our lives as academics and human beings.

Vincent Roscigno and Rachel Dwyer, Ohio State University; Garth Massey, University of Wyoming; and Lisa Keister, Duke University

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Burkart Holzner
1931-2015

Burkart Holzner lived 83 years when he died on August 25, 2014. Educated in Munich, Bonn, and the University of Wisconsin, he chaired the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Sociology from 1966 until 1980 when he became Director of Pitt’s University Center for International Studies. He held this position for the next two decades. His career as academic administrator was infused with his vision as a sociologist.

Burkart was always concerned with how people act together to create knowledge. In 1968 he published his pathbreaking Reality Construction in Society, which treated “the interconnections between cognitions and social structures”. Four decades later, he and his wife Leslie Holzner published Transparency in Global Change, addressing the social conditions for free flows of information. When I joined Pitt Sociology as a new PhD in 1972, it was very much a department deeply shaped by Burkart as its chair. Everyone in the department spoke of “epistemic communities” to describe connected people trying to advance knowledge.

Burkart was much more than a theorist of the social organization of knowledge. He aimed for a sociology department that would be open to important recent and varied disciplinary currents. In Burkart’s department Roland Robertson was developing his analyses of global processes and Tom Fararo, Pat Doreian, and Norm Hummon were deploying mathematical tools for an array of theoretical and empirical purposes. But Burkart was also always concerned in his own writing and teaching, with how current trends in sociological theory and research built on the past. His graduate seminars were places that invited students to think about how recent ways of framing issues were imbedded in intellectual traditions as well as about the social conditions in which ideas are generated. Modeling the search for knowledge as a shared activity, his courses were frequently team-taught.

The department was open to the world. Burkart believed deeply that we needed to think on a wider geographic scale than the national states and on a deeper temporal scale than the current moment. This led him to promote comparative and historical studies and especially what was being called civilizational analysis – the study of large geocultural areas with distinctive historical trajectories and ways of understanding. But for Burkart this field was not just about difference but about connection. His favorite theme was the “intercivilizational encounter” and this soon led to a deep interest in what’s everywhere now called “globalization”. Pitt’s Sociology Department was one of the early places where that word was becoming part of everyday academese. It was a most natural step for Burkart to move from that creative period in building a department to assume the directorship of our University Center for International Studies.

Burkart used to say that a good comparativist needed to be deeply engaged in at least three cultures. Perhaps he was thinking of his own connections to the United States, Germany, and China, where he was working with that country’s sociologists. But insights acquired by scholars need to be passed on and Burkart was long active in international higher education; he became president of the Association for International Education Administrators in 1990.

I fear I’ve not conveyed how much pleasure Burkart took in all these activities and how much a pleasure it was to talk to him and hear some elegant anecdote with a sociological point. Burkart was someone who delighted in learning new stuff and this delight spilled over. I find the following at the beginning of the book he and Leslie gave us on transparency: “We had a good time writing this book. We have learned a lot that we didn’t know before we started and the actual work needed to prepare for it was a joyful shared adventure.” Knowledge as a joyful shared adventure. What a great thing to invite our students to share, too.

John Markoff, University of Pittsburgh

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Thomas S. Korllos
1925-2015

Thomas S. Korllos, Associate Professor of Sociology at Kent State University passed away peacefully at his home in Sugar Bush Knolls, Ohio, on June 16, 2015, surrounded by family. He was 89. Tom was known for his commitment to teaching particularly social theory. He was especially interested in the work of micro-sociologists including Georg Simmel and Erving Goffman. In addition to sociological theory, he worked in a number of substantive areas including the sociology of international societies focusing on Greece, Russia and China, the application of social theory to social problems and the sociology of architecture. In regard to the last area, he developed a popular course on its social aspects.

Tom was an Army Air Corps veteran of World War II. After leaving the service, he began teaching in high school. He earned a Masters’ degree in sociology from Kent State University in 1964, He joined the department at that time and commuted to The Ohio State University to earn his Ph.D in sociology a few years. He remained associated with KSU, in various teaching roles, until he was 80 years old. He took several years (1970-1978) away from the department to serve as an administrator in Kent State’s College of Arts and Sciences but returned to the Sociology Department because he missed teaching.

Tom was a demanding professor, in the best sense of those words, who set the bar high for his students. Not only did he expect his students to master the complexities of social theory, but they were expected to apply these ideas to contemporary social problems.

Tom was an academic internationalist. As one local newspaper obituary noted, Tom and his wife, Marion, “...traveled extensively throughout the world... and brought his experience into the classroom.”

He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Marion, and their sons, Stephen and Christopher and their families. Private services were held at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Akron, Ohio.

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Suet-ling Pong
1955-2015

Suet-ling Pong died May 12, 2015, after a brief recurrance of breast cancer, which was first diagnosed in 1998. In the 17-year interval she had a successful career as a sociologist and demographer of education and of immigration, and she raised her daughter to adulthood. 

Pong was born in 1955 into a crowded public housing estate of post-war Hong Kong. One effect of this density and material poverty was that the (also crowded) public schools seemed like havens of comparative security and nurturing. Although her parents lacked formal education and could not offer much help with her studies, she managed to pass the necessary tests to continue beyond fourth grade, beyond sixth grade, beyond ninth grade, and finally to become one of the 3 percent of children (2% of girls) who won a place to attend university. Although her primary and secondary and university studies were largely supported by government scholarships, during her student years she also supported her family with such jobs as sewing dolls for export toy companies; working on a radio assembly line; and (while in university) working as a bet-maker and odds calculator for horseracing at the Jockey Club.

In 1982 Pong began studies in the Department of Education of the University of Chicago. During her first semester she supplemented her scholarship with weekly housecleaning in neighborhood homes. By the end of the first semester, she had done so well in a statistics class that she was hired as his research assistant by the professor. After a short time, Suet-ling was recognized as invaluable and she was offered research assistant work first by the director of NORC and then by the department chair of education. She also received Hewlett Foundation support even before she began to write her dissertation (on marriage and income inequality). She subsequently won awards from the Rockefeller Foundation and Population Council to complete her studies. Prior to finishing her dissertation—one of the first to process raw census data tapes of household characteristics in Hong Kong—Suet-ling was also recruited for a job at her alma matter, Chinese University of Hong Kong. In 1991 she joined the faculty in the Department of Education Policy Studies at the Pennsylvania State University.

Suet-ling tried to answer many types of research questions and she learned to use an eclectic array of methods, most of them cutting edge in the social sciences and certainly in the field of education. Her research won top honors in her field, and she received many prizes and grants over the years. Her deep curiousities drove her studies of: social capital and single motherhood; the revealed sex preferences of different ethnic groups (living in Malaysia); the impact of women’s earnings and increased education on household income inequality. She was interested in variations in class-size effects on achievement; preferential ethnic policies; immigrant destinations and strategies; family welfare policies and their effect on children; and demographic processes in the family leading to social stratification. She enjoyed collaborating with some of the best scholars in the different fields of her effort. In 1999 she won the ASA “Willard Waller” Award for the best scholarly article in sociology of education over the 1996-99 period.

She is survived by her husband, David Post, who still teaches at Pennsylvania State, and by her daughter, Sara Yin-ling Post, who recently graduated in biology from Reed College and will continue her studies in nursing at the University of Washington. Memorial gatherings took place in Pennsylvania on May 17 and at the Chinese University of Hong Kong on May 25.

The original biography was written by David Post and submitted by Katerina Bodovski, Pennsylvania State University.

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Jack Siegman

Jack Siegman, 84, passed away on April 21, 2015. He retired from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) in 2001 to Laguna Woods, CA, following 35 years of teaching sociology and community activism.   

 Jack graduated with undergraduate majors in sociology and philosophy from Brooklyn College-CUNY in 1953 and then attended the New School for Social Research to study social stratification and industrial sociology. Working with Bernard Karsh at the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, he completed his PhD in 1966.

 Jack was doing public sociology well before it was in vogue. As a faculty member at UNL, he was engaged in classroom and community-based social movements. In 1968 he activated his interests in political and urban sociology and minority relations by teaching one of the first Black Studies courses at UNL. He helped initiate, organize, and structure the first Ethnic Studies Program at UNL. Jack continued to teach Race and Ethnicity and Political Sociology courses throughout his career. As Chair of the Urban Studies Program at UNL from 1975 to 1981, he forged interdisciplinary connections that linked him and his students to the civil rights and other community movements. Jack also expanded his students’ understanding of the global meaning of urban inequality through the Semester in England, Semester in the Czech Republic, and Summer Course in Italy programs he taught in the 1990s.

Jack was a passionate champion of participatory democracy and social justice, values displayed and pursued in his various university leadership roles as well as via community activism. As Chair of the Department of Sociology from 1980 to 1983 and through his service on numerous college and university committees, he collaborated with colleagues to enhance shared governance. In the community of Lincoln, he enthusiastically applied the principles set out by Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals (1971), especially working with the evolving Lincoln neighborhood organizations. He served on the Lincoln Human Rights Commission in the early 1970s, on the Mayor’s Community Cabinet, the Lincoln City Charter Revision Commission (appointed by the mayor), and the Lincoln Public Schools Equal Opportunity Task Force. He also chaired the Lincoln Police Review Board.  In the Lincoln Community Congress, he was involved with such issues as downtown re-vitalization, neighborhood development, scattered site affordable housing, and recreation opportunities. In response to several gun incidents on or near campus, including a failed attempt by a student to shoot his classmates, Jack successfully co-organized a “Gun-Free Zone Movement” on the UNL campus in 1994. In 1996, he was interviewed by the campus and community newspapers on the red-lining activities of local banks in the racialized and class-based profiling of mortgage loans in the historically Black Malone community.   

Jack Siegman’s early philosophy on public sociology is quoted in the 1969 UNL Yearbook regarding campus activism during the 1960s: “How ironic it is that the university—that haven of separation from everyday affairs, of contemplation and truth-seeking—is at the forefront of ferment and disaffection in our society. Is something wrong? The Ivory Tower is now a blade dissecting through the truths of the world ‘outside.’ Where did it go ‘wrong?’ Some say it went ‘wrong’ because of racism in our land, or Vietnam, or poverty, or boredom, or affluence. Yes, all of this and more. It went ‘wrong’ because the world outside wasn’t ‘right.’ I assume that’s what it’s all about. You tell it like it is. Maybe this is one among other functions of a university. Maybe it is our task to go ‘wrong’ in the search for what is ‘right.’”

Jack was an enthusiastic recreational poker player, participating in a local weekly game (which he fondly referred to as “the probability seminar”) with other professors throughout his 35 years in Lincoln. As with most other endeavors in which he engaged, the outcome of the poker game was not nearly as important to Jack as was the process. He thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie, the kidding, the witty repartee, and the conviviality.

He is survived by his wife Collette, children, grandchildren, family, many friends, and countless appreciative students.

Helen Moore, University of Nebraska Lincoln and Rob Benford, University of South Florida

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