John E. Dunkelberger
John E. Dunkelberger, Professor Emeritus of Rural Sociology at Auburn University, passed away on February 23, 2019, at the age of 84. Born in Sunbury, PA, he often talked fondly of his summers spent as a young man working on the railroad. John received his BA from Franklin & Marshall College, MS from Pennsylvania State University and his PhD in rural sociology from Mississippi State University.
John joined the Auburn faculty in 1962 in a teaching-research appointment in the Department of Agricultural Economics and the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station (AAES), retiring in 2003. During his long tenure at Auburn he nurtured growth of rural sociology as a discipline that addressed the needs of rural people in Alabama and beyond. John taught the first rural sociology courses at Auburn in 1962, and in 1983 he helped establish a graduate program in rural sociology that continues to produce high quality research. His research interests included youth, housing, and rural crime. The 1975 AAES bulletin “Profiling the Woodsburner: An Analysis of Fire Trespass Violations in the South’s National Forests” was a widely appreciated applied publication for which he was justifiably quite proud.
John’s influence and leadership extended far beyond the Auburn campus. He was part of the movement that led to the establishment of the Rural Sociology Section of the Southern Association of Agricultural Scientists in 1969 that later became the Southern Rural Sociology Association. He served as the 1971-72 President. Later, John was Secretary-Treasurer of the Rural Sociological Society for some years.
Early in his career he and a group of colleagues establish a network of researchers spanning the entire southeast focusing on the factors leading to success in youth achievement. Their research team often referred to as the “Southern Youth Study “was responsible a large number of scholarly contributions and helped shape social science understanding of youth development.
He taught rural sociology and several community courses to students from the College of Agriculture major, often the only social science course in their program of study. In later years, he taught a heavily subscribed research methods course for nursing students. He was widely respected by sociologists in the region and was elected President of the Alabama-Mississippi Sociology Association in 2003.
John supported the Auburn community through his affiliations with the First United Methodist Church, several civic clubs, university associations, The Auburn Federal Credit Union, and local charities. He is remembered by his many students and those who worked with him as a good colleague and mentor.
Joseph J. Molnar, Auburn University
Russell R. Dynes
Russell R. Dynes, Professor Emeritus at the University of Delaware and former Executive Officer of the American Sociological Association, died on February 10, 2019, at age 95. Dynes was an early pioneer of the disaster research field and co-founder of the Disaster Research Center (DRC), first founded at the Ohio State University and later relocating to the University of Delaware.
Professor Dynes was born in Dundalk, Ontario, on October 2, 1923, and later moved to the United States with his family. During World War II, he was an Army Specialist Training Group in Engineering at the University of Alabama, later assigned to the 138º Petroleum Distribution Company. After his discharge in 1946, he completed his bachelor’s (1948) and master’s (1950) degrees at the University of Tennessee, and his PhD in sociology at Ohio State University (1954).
It was at Ohio State where he met Enrico Quarantelli and Eugene Haas. In 1963, he co-founded the Disaster Research Center, one of the most renowned centers in the world focusing on the social aspects of disasters. Quarantelli and Dynes continued as DRC co-directors for many years, mentoring students who became leaders in the disaster research field. Russell Dynes’s influence on scholars stretched beyond disciplines and borders, providing the foundation for much of the knowledge about individual and organizational behavior during disasters and contributing to the formation of the sociology of disasters.
Many of his accomplishments were in service to the sociological profession. He chaired the Department of Sociology at Ohio State University (1974-1977), then left OSU to become Executive Officer of the American Sociological Association (ASA) from 1977 to 1982. This was a time period of great expansion and more diversity in the discipline of sociology, trends that Dynes greeted with great enthusiasm. Many of us who “came of age” during that period saw him as a mentor and friend.
Over the years, he served as president, vice president, and program chair of the North Central Sociological Association; editor of ASA’s Footnotes, chair, associate editor, and treasurer of the Religious Research Association; and treasurer for the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, in addition to many other national and regional committees. After the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant accident, he served as the head of the Task Force on Emergency Preparedness and Response for the President’s Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island. He joined the University of Delaware as chair of the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice from 1982-1988. It was during that time that Quarantelli and the Disaster Research Center moved to its present home at the University of Delaware.
Professor Dynes wrote and edited many books, book chapters, and monographs, including a co-edited volume on the Sociology of Disasters: Contributions of Sociology to Disaster Research. He served as President of the Research Committee on Disasters from 1986-1990 and its executive committee from 1990-1994. His honors are many, including multiple Fulbright awards and scholarly awards from the disaster research community: the E.L. Quarantelli Award for Contributions to Social Science Disaster Theory, and the Charles E. Fritz Award for Distinguished Career Service to the Field of Disaster Research, both from the International Sociological Association’s Research Committee on Disasters.
Professor Dynes was, at all times, a sharp observer of human behavior, both by individuals and in groups and organizations. His classic book, Organized Behavior in Disaster, now nearly 50 years old, presents durable analyses and findings that remain foundational in our understanding of disasters. His 1995 article on disaster research policy networks was published in the Journal of Applied Sociology. In addition to providing a fascinating autobiographical background, he wrote of the importance of “transnational and comparative work, that sociological knowledge should have application, and that sociology, like any intellectual activity, needs to be supported by creating interpersonal networks.” Through his Fulbright Awards that brought him to Egypt, India, and Thailand, his international fieldwork, and his conference travel that brought him around the globe several times over, Dynes forged and fostered connections that would last a lifetime, influencing his thinking, writing, and teaching.
The late sociologist and former National Science Foundation program officer William (Bill) A. Anderson commented, “My mentor and friend Russell Dynes has been a most remarkable and productive figure in the social science disaster research community for nearly five decades. With far reaching intellect and collaborative nature, he arrived on the scene of the nascent disaster research field at just the right time to provide leadership to help build a community of scholars that cuts across national borders and to show the way to new and creative ways to capture the essence of human behavior in disaster, train future generations of researchers, and build bridges to policy makers and practitioners.”
Dynes was predeceased by his wife, Susan, and his son, Jon. He is survived by his sons, Russ, Jr. (Jane Luke), Patrick, and Greg; and grandchildren, Oliver, Christopher, Madeline, and Andrew.
Those who remember Professor Dynes recall his cheerful demeanor. Throughout his career, the moment he met a student, a scholar new to the field, or an international visitor to the Disaster Research Center, he would immediately conjure a recollection of a visit to the person’s home-city, a tie to their interest, or a connection upon which to build. He had the wonderful ability to set someone at ease and quickly build rapport.
We can be grateful for his long and productive life, one whose pursuits led him abroad and kept him coming into the office, writing, and co-editing books well into his 80s. Although we are deeply saddened, those of us who knew him will reflect on many good times. Those who know him only as a pioneering scholar in the field will have the benefit of his many contributions for years to come.
Tricia Wachtendorf, James Kendra, Margaret Andersen, University of Delaware
Ray H. Elling
Ray H. Elling, PhD, 89, died peacefully on Friday, November 23, 2018, in the University of Connecticut’s John Dempsey Hospital after a very brief stay. Aware of his options and their risks, Ray chose palliative care rather than restorative care and donated his body to science.
Born July 23, 1929, to immigrant Swedish parents, Ray grew up the youngest of three sons in Minnesota and became an avid and accomplished outdoorsman. In early adulthood, Ray joined the U.S. Army and served in the reconstruction effort in Japan and then in Austria, where he met and married Margit Schreiber in 1952. He returned to the U.S. with Margit, began a family and pursued graduate studies in the nascent field of medical sociology. He received his master’s degree from the University of Chicago and his PhD from Yale University.
Ray’s deep devotion to the dignity of each individual found its professional expression in his research and instruction in cross-cultural public health. Always one to build bridges, he sparked the development of many interdisciplinary graduate programs that introduced physicians, nurses, social workers, sociologists, epidemiologists, psychologists, and more to one another, to each other’s professions and to the people whom they sought to serve. His studies of health care systems and outcomes in a variety of cultures resulted in a two-year appointment as a consultant to the World Health Organization in the early 1970s. He was also instrumental in founding the Connecticut Council on Occupational Safety and Health, Inc. in 1981.
A founding faculty member of the University of Connecticut Medical School, Ray inspired and led the “Social Sciences and Health Care” doctoral program out of the Department of Community Medicine. He was a prolific researcher and an accomplished writer/editor of scholarly works such as Traditional and Modern Medical Systems (June 1981), Struggle for Workers’ Health: A Study of Six Industrialized Countries (February 1986) and Health and Health Care for the Urban Poor: A study of Hartford’s North End (Connecticut health services research series) 1974.
Ray’s real passion was always for teaching, and he leaves behind a generation, if not two, of researchers, academicians, and practitioners. Even in retirement, Ray worked to make sure that UConn medical students were well instructed in the needs of the underserved and overlooked.
Though never a “politician” in the common sense of that word, Ray, a long-time resident of Farmington, served on its Human Relations Commission and the Farmington Democratic Town Committee. From his earliest years he was an ardent peace activist, supporter of women’s rights, champion of ethnic and race relations, and, lately, advocate for disability rights. As an officer in the Citizens Coalition for Equal Access (CC=A), he successfully pushed the Unionville, Farmington, and West Hartford branches of the U.S. Postal Service to make their services properly accessible to people with disabilities. These successes led to Concurrent Resolutions calling for automatic doors in all federally funded buildings, which the U.S. Senate unanimously approved. Not content with federal buildings, Ray moved on to push for mandating the use of “universal design” in all Federally funded projects meaning, “the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.” (The Center for Universal Design, North Carolina State University)
He is survived by his wife of 27 years, Marilyn, his eldest son, Ron, his youngest son, Martin, his daughter-in-law, Xenia, his grandchildren, Tyson, Jessica, Jason, and Kristofer, and many great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife of 38 years, Margit, and his second son, Gerard.
Monetary gifts in memory of Ray Elling can be directed to any charitable organization bettering humanity. You may, if you wish, target your generosity to Connecticut Council on Occupational Safety and Health, Inc. (ConnectiCOSH), 683 North Mountain Road, Newington, CT 06111, or to Farmington Valley Trout Unlimited, c/o John DiVenere, 139 Hopmeadow Rd., Bristol, CT 06010, with a memo in memory of Ray Elling.
Adapted from his Farmington Patch obituary of December 1, 2018 by grateful former students: Sylvia Kenig Snyder, Lois Haignere, Christine Witzel and (in spirit) Helen Raisz.
Peter Kaufman passed away on November 19, 2018, after battling aggressive metastatic lung cancer; he was 51. After earning a BA in Political Science from Earlham College in 1989 and a PhD in Sociology from Stony Brook University in 1999, Peter found his professional “home” at the State University of New York at New Paltz, where he spent his entire career. He joined the Sociology Department in 1999, received tenure and promotion in 2006, and rose to the rank of full professor in 2014.
Over the course of his career, Peter cultivated a highly reflexive, compassionate, contemplative, and collaborative sociological imagination as a teacher-scholar-activist-athlete in the symbolic-interactionist tradition. How do students form class-based identities in their college environment? How do children respond to the stigmas of homelessness? How do athletes use sport to actively foster progressive social change? How can concepts of sociological theory and Buddhist philosophy inform the sociology of teaching and learning? These are just a sample of the questions that guided Peter’s intellectual curiosity and journey. Whether examining identity formation, pedagogy, or sports, Peter made a concerted effort to develop an empathetic understanding of his subjects, always focusing on the relationship between individuals’ biographies and history. He was a generous and frequent collaborator, eager to share the labor, laughter, and insights from his well-honed sociological imagination with colleagues, including Todd Schoepflin, Janine Schipper, Catherine Fobes, Matthew Immergut, Mindy Ross, Eli Wolf, Terry Murray, Anne Roschelle, and Judith Halasz.
Peter established his voice in the social reproduction literature on youth, class, and the self. He published findings from his dissertation in “Learning to Not Labor: How Working-Class Individuals Construct Middle-Class Identities” in Sociological Quarterly (2003). He expanded this line of inquiry in “Social Structure and the Individual” with Judith Halasz in A Sociology Experiment, edited by Shamus Khan and Patrick Sharkey (2019), “The Sociology of College Students’ Identity Formation” in In Search of Self: Exploring Undergraduate Identity Development, edited by Chad Hanson (Jossey-Bass, 2014), “Middle-Class Social Reproduction: The Activation and Negotiation of Structural Advantages” in Sociological Forum (2005), “Fitting In and Fighting Back: Stigma Management Strategies Among Homeless Kids” with Anne Roschelle in Symbolic Interaction (2004), and other articles.
As a teacher-scholar-activist-athlete, he brought his personal and political interests to bear on his scholarship and teaching. Well-known for his contributions to the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), Peter integrated symbolic-interactionism with Freirian critical pedagogy and more recently contemplative practice. Teaching with Compassion (2018), co-authored with Janine Schipper, offers eight practices to help teachers at all levels incorporate empathy into teaching and learning. In addition to editing the ASA teaching monograph Critical Pedagogy in the Sociology Classroom (2006), Peter’s most significant SoTL publications included “Critical Contemplative Pedagogy” in Radical Pedagogy (2017), “A Sociology of No-Self: Applying Buddhist Social Theory to Symbolic Interaction” with Matthew Immergut in Symbolic Interaction (2014), “Scribo Ergo Cogito: Reflexivity through Writing” in Teaching Sociology (2013), “Sociology as Pedagogy: How Ideas from the Discipline Can Inform Teaching and Learning” with Judith Halasz in Teaching Sociology (2008), “Critical Pedagogy in the Classroom: Challenges and Concerns” with Catherine Fobes (2008), and numerous teaching resources and essays published by respected academic outlets.
In the classroom, Peter practiced what he published. He was an exceptionally creative, dynamic, and mindful teacher, closely mentoring students’ academic and holistic development. Committed to fostering student writing, Peter regularly taught writing intensive courses, chaired the SUNY New Paltz Writing Board, and frequently coordinated the annual Celebration of Writing Day. As a teaching mentor, he approached junior colleagues as equals sharing in a collective endeavor to improve the learning experience. Recognized as a leading pedagogue on campus and in the field, he received numerous well-deserved accolades, including the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2011 and the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching at SUNY Stony Brook in 1998.
Peter extended his sphere of written work beyond academia to the blogosphere and microburst essays on Twitter as well as haikus he shared with family, friends, students, and colleagues. Peter’s commitment to making sociological thought available to all students in and outside the classroom was best captured in his 100-plus entries in the Everyday Sociology blog (W.W. Norton, 2011-2018). To make sociology accessible, he applied abstract ideas of theory and methodology to everyday situations, from elections to mega-lotteries to his own dying. Peter treated Everyday Sociology as a platform to express his academic-activist voice as a public sociologist. Eager to use every opportunity to reflect and teach, one of his final writings addressed his experience with a terminal illness, “A Sociology of My Death,” which later expanded into a public talk at SUNY New Paltz, “On Death and Dying.” This exercise of reflexivity showed students and colleagues his mindfulness in contemplating this intimate experience and the collective challenges of talking about the life cycle.
Peter was also a lifelong athlete who combined his passion for sports and social justice in several articles including “Playing and Protesting: Sport as a Vehicle for Social Change” co-authored with Eli Wolf in Journal of Sport and Social Issues (2010) and “Boos, Bans, and Backlash: The Consequences of Being an Activist Athlete” in Humanity and Society (2008). He was recognized for his contributions to the sociology of sport as a Research Fellow in the Sport and Society Center at Northeastern University in 2007.
An avid cyclist and swimmer, he enjoyed riding through the Hudson Valley and down to New York City and swimming in Lake Minnewaska. He not only practiced the mantra of sound body, sound mind, but also patiently and persistently encouraged friends, colleagues, and students to join him on rides, hikes, swims, and races. In the saddle or the trail, no matter how fast he could go, he would always ride or walk with you.
Peter also used his musical talents to advocate for social change and forge close friendships with colleagues. He was the drummer for the all-faculty rock band, Questionable Authorities, joining sociology, psychology, and biology professors. The band played frequently in the New Paltz area to benefit students and social justice causes. He was equally quick to work with community organizations to address social problems large and small, from bigotry to unsafe cycling and pedestrian conditions.
Peter is survived by his partner of 33 years, Leigh Weaver, his parents Toby and Barry Kaufman, brothers Jon and Josh and their families, sister-in-law Ann Ward and her family, greyhound Billy, as well as his New Paltz “family” of friends, neighbors, bandmates, and colleagues. He will be greatly missed, but we take comfort in knowing that his legacy will persist in the work, outlooks, and lives of his family, friends, colleagues, and students.
Roberto Velez-Velez and Judith R. Halasz, SUNY New Paltz.
Olaf F. Larson
Olaf Larson, Professor Emeritus of Rural Sociology, passed away on November 14, just three months shy of his 108th birthday. Olaf earned a master’s degree in agricultural journalism with a minor in agricultural economics and a PhD in rural sociology.
In 1936, Olaf joined the faculty of Colorado State University (then Colorado State A&M) as an assistant professor. Olaf’s research during this time focused on national studies pertaining to rural relief problems, farm labor, farm families, population change and mobility, and a study of 3 Colorado communities as part of a nationwide study of agricultural communities. It was also where he met and married his wife Clair.
After being promoted to associate professor in 1937, Olaf began his career’s next chapter at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Division of Farm Population and Rural Life. The Division was the first federal government agency devoted to sociological research. As Olaf, and his longtime colleague, Julie N. Zimmerman, were to show in two landmark books published in the 2000s, the “Division” was hugely influential in developing theory-driven empirical social science in America. Olaf’s wide-ranging research for the Division included rural development, racial and other forms of inequality, rural poverty, farm families and led the region’s contributions to a nationwide effort to establish cultural regions within rural America. In 1941, while employed by USDA, Larson completed his PhD at the University of Wisconsin.
In 1946, Olaf accepted an associate professorship in Rural Sociology at Cornell. Olaf’s work at Cornell spanned all three Land Grant functions: teaching, research and Extension. At Cornell, Olaf’s work included examining migratory farm labor, rural health, and rural values and beliefs, along with his continuing focus on rural community organization. He testified before Congress and his research was used by both President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Commission on Rural Poverty and by the New York State Legislative Committee on Migrant Labor. He was the first director of the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development. From 1957-1966, he served as Head of the Department of Rural Sociology (now Development Sociology). He became an internationally recognized scholar of rural life in America and was twice selected as a Fulbright Scholar (1951-52 in Oslo, Norway and 1961-62 in Naples, Italy); was voted into the prestigious Sociological Research Association in 1954; elected president of the Rural Sociological Society (RSS) in 1957; and awarded the RSS’s career award of Distinguished Rural Sociologist in 1985.
In 1975, Professor Larson faced mandatory retirement laws in force at the time. Retirement notwithstanding, he remained an active scholar for more than a quarter of a century more including research with Dr. Minnie Miller-Brown of North Carolina State University on Black farmers and Olaf co-edited the influential book on the sociology of agriculture with Fred Buttel and Gilbert Gillespie.
In the late 1980s he began research exploring the profound impact on social science research and public policy of the USDA’s Division of Farm Population and Rural Life – the first unit of the federal government devoted to sociological research and for which he had worked. This project was unique for its support from both the Rural Sociological Society and the American Sociological Association.
While he would lose his wife and lifelong partner Clair, in 2011, Olaf published two books during his centennial year. One of the books, the final in the series on social science research in the USDA, was nominated for the ASA’s History of Sociology Section’s Distinguished Scholarly Publication Award. The other book, published by the University of Wisconsin Press, examined rural life in Wisconsin during his boyhood years.
Professor Olaf Larson was the last of a generation of rural sociologists, and in many ways his career traced the history of rural sociology. He was the Rural Sociological Society’s (RSS) oldest past president, the oldest member of the RSS, the oldest sociologist and rural sociologist in the nation, and the last person who had worked in the first unit of the federal government devoted to sociological research. To honor his long years of achievement, “in recognition of his significant commitment and contributions to the discipline of sociology” the American Sociological Association bestowed Olaf with an honorary lifetime membership.
Julie N. Zimmerman, University of Kentucky, and David Brown, Cornell University
To truly appreciate Devah Pager, you had to see her in action.
Pager was in my office at Harvard once when a researcher stopped by to tell me about an interview just conducted of men and women recently released from prison. A young man in the study had applied for a job at a pizza place, where the application included a question asking if he had a criminal record.
Employers in Massachusetts are not allowed to ask about criminal records at the first job interview. Pager asked the name of the pizza place, googled the phone number and called them up. Politely but firmly, she told the manager the practice was illegal. The manager apologized and said they’d print new applications right away.
Pager, who passed away on November 2 at age 46, was a generous soul and beloved at Northwestern, Princeton, and Harvard Universities where she had taught. As a graduate student and a native of Hawaii, she had deep interests in the stereotyping and discrimination that accompanied racial injustice. Before attending her PhD program at the University of Wisconsin, she studied sociology in South Africa. She had told me that at Wisconsin she wanted to do dissertation research analyzing data on the employment of formerly-incarcerated men, but a lot of that research was already done (some of it by me). That’s when she switched to the idea of an audit study, which, it turned out, was a much sharper knife.
Her audit study became a landmark work. It examined the job prospects of young men with criminal records. It paired young men posing as job seekers. They were selected to look the same, were given similar clothes and trained to act in the same way in job interviews. But one in each pair was given a resume that indicated a criminal record. Would employers treat them differently?
Conducting the experiment in Milwaukee, Pager found that white job applicants without a criminal record would be called back by employers with a job offer or for a second interview about 34 percent of the time. If the white applicant had a criminal record, the callback rate was only 17 percent. The effect of a criminal record on employers was even more striking for black applicants. Those without a criminal record were called back about 14 percent of the time. But if they had a criminal record, black job applicants were called back just 5 percent of the time.
The research had a significant impact on social science and public policy. Pager had isolated one important way in which criminal justice involvement had negative effects: the stigma of a criminal record. What’s more, criminal stigma was even larger for blacks than whites. The research also showed that there was substantial racial discrimination. Race plus the stigma of a criminal record nearly eliminated economic opportunity for formerly-incarcerated black men. Pager’s dissertation, Mark of a Criminal Record, had an immediate effect on public policy and received the 2003 ASA Dissertation Award. It was published in 2007 as Marked: Race, Crime, and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration.
Pager and I replicated the results of her dissertation research in New York City. Again, job seekers with criminal records were found to do poorly in general, but black job seekers with clean records did even worse than whites with prior convictions.
A few years later, we started work on another experiment, this time looking at the legal fines and fees that are levied on criminal defendants. Criminal defendants are usually very poor. What if, she wondered, they didn’t have to pay the court fees and small fines that often begin a downward spiral into incarceration?
The experimental method was a hallmark of her short and brilliant career. In Pager’s hands, the experiment flipped the script. Instead of studying the shortcomings of disadvantaged people, she studied how the world treated them. Like her phone call to the pizza place, her work was infused with a big-hearted sense of justice in which everyone deserves a second chance.
Devah was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2016 and for much of the next two years she worked actively on her research and chaired a PhD program at Harvard. Only in the last month did the disease become overwhelming. She is survived by her father and two brothers, her husband Mike Shohl, and young son, Atticus.
She will be missed, not just as a scholar, but also as a friend whose spirit could warm an auditorium and whose sense of justice and drive for the evidence to support it inspires us all.
Bruce Western, Columbia University. This was adapted from an obituary that originally appeared in Marshall Project website.