April 2014 Issue • Volume 42 • Issue 4

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Abbott Lamoyne Ferriss, Professor Emeritus of Emory University and a renowned sociologist, passed away peacefully at the age of 99 on March 12, 2014, in Gainesville, Georgia.

Charles William Mueller, 70, of Iowa City passed away on Thursday, October 9, 2013, at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

Elva Marie Pees, U.S. Census Bureau employee for over 40 years, died on March 23 at the age of 68. She was the “rock” for her fellow Census Bureau employees. Her knowledge of historical and current decennial, survey, and demographic data will be irreplaceable.

Lewis Yablonsky, California State University-Northridge, died on January 29 in Santa Monica, CA, at the age 89. He came to California State University-Northridge in 1963, served as Chair 1964-69, and retired in 1993.


Abbott L. Ferriss

Abbott L. Ferriss, Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Emory University, passed away peacefully on March 12, 2014. He was 99 years old.

Ferriss was one of the foremost scholars in the fields of social indicators and quality of life research. His first publication in these areas was a 1948 Social Forces article on “rural farm level of living indexes.” His last publication was the 2010 book Approaches to Improving the Quality of Life: How to Enhance the Quality of Life—published when Ferriss was 95 years old. Ferriss produced several books and many articles and chapters in the intervening years, including volumes in 1969, 1970, and 1971 on trends in the United States, titled Indicators of Trends in American Education, Indicators of Change in the American Family, and Indicators of Trends in the Status of Women. He published “Monitoring and Interpreting Turning Points in Educational Indicators” in the first issue of the journal Social Indicators Research in 1974. His 1988 Presidential Address to the Southern Sociological Society was on “The Uses of Social Indicators.” He received the Distinguished Quality of Life Researcher Award in 1997 from the International Society for Quality of Life Studies and was a Fellow of that organization. His career was devoted to promoting the use of social indicators at the federal, state, and other levels and identifying those indicators of greatest value.

His pursuit of this goal was reflected not only in his publications, but in his service. The U.S. Social Science Research Center opened a Center of Research on Social Indicators in 1972 and began publishing the Social Indicators Newsletter in 1973. When the Center ceased publication of the Newsletter in 1983, Ferriss volunteered to both publish and edit Social Indicators Network News (SINET); he served in these roles from 1984 to 1995. He searched for materials on social indicators, wrote articles about the latest work, compiled the newsletter, maintained a mailing list, and took the newsletter to the post office. All of this was done after his retirement from Emory in 1982. In addition, he was actively involved in many professional organizations. He served as Secretary-Treasurer of the Population Association of America, 1965–67; Vice President of the Southern Sociological Society, 1966–67; President of the Southern Sociological Society, 1988–89; Editor of The Southern Sociologist,1981–84; and on the Board of Directors of the International Society for Quality of Life Studies, 2003-10. He received the Distinguished Service Award from the Southern Sociological Society in 1995. And, he was a member of the Sociological Research Association and the Cosmos Club.

Ferriss was born in 1915 in Jonestown, Mississippi. He received his BA from the University of Missouri in 1937, his MA from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 1943, served in China and the Far East during WWII, and received his PhD from UNC at Chapel Hill in 1950. He served on the faculty of several universities, but spent most of his academic career at Emory University, arriving in 1970 and serving as Chair of the Sociology Department from 1970–76. As Chair, he strongly supported the creation of what became the first African American Studies program at a southern university. He also worked as a sociologist for the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Bureau of the Census, National Science Foundation, and Russell Sage Foundation.

Ferris also had many talents beyond sociology. His work with the Works Progress Administrationin the 1930s resulted in a set of original music recordings and photographs from the Mississippi delta. He produced a book of poetry in 2010. His paintings hung in the Emory Department of Sociology for many years. He published on Southern folklore (e.g., “The Persistence of Children’s Gamesongs in North Mississippi” in 1995). And he was an avid hiker and world traveler well into his retirement, once facing down a bear on the Appalachian Trail. Those who had the privilege of knowing him appreciated his modesty, generosity, work ethic, and the model for successful aging that he presented. Ferriss was preceded in death by his wife, Ruth Sparks, and brother, AW. He is survived by his sons, John and Will, his four grandsons, two great grandsons, and dear friend Rosemary W. Dodd.     

Robert Agnew, Emory University; Kenneth Land, Duke University; Alex C. Michalos, University of Northern British Columbia.  

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