March 2014 Issue • Volume 42 • Issue 3

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Colleagues and Friends Pay Tribute to Maureen Hallinan

Maureen Hallinan

I first met Maureen shortly after I started working for ASA, when she was appointed editor of Sociology of Education (and later worked with her again as ASA President). She was a joy to work with in both roles. Seeing her (and her daughter Renee) each year at the Annual Meeting always was a highlight, even when hectic schedules meant catching up just for a few minutes. (Catching up to Maureen was a feat in and of itself!) She was kind and had a quiet but hilarious sense of humor that often caught you by surprise. I miss her and am honored to have been able to call her a friend.

Karen Edwards, American Sociological Association

* * *

Maureen had an undeniable and positive influence on the sociology of education, and her work will continue to shape conversations in the field and inform future generations. I celebrate the knowledge that her academic legacy is secure. Where sociologists and others will feel her absence most acutely in coming years is through the loss of her mentorship.

As an unlikely and underprepared new graduate student, I did not immediately understand the privilege of having Maureen’s guidance and example. I quickly came to recognize it as precious, and today I remain honored that she chose to offer it so generously and to fully commit to my development as a scholar and a citizen. Those of us who worked with her learned not to proceed without a strong theory, to rigorously hone hypotheses, and to keep sight of our goals even when overwhelmed by details. Perhaps more importantly, we witnessed her remain firm in her guiding convictions, engage with people and ideas in meaningful ways, thrive in challenging circumstances, and maintain great faith in others.

I now realize how rare it is for someone to provide such thoughtful direction, through both word and deed, and how much energy and wisdom is needed to nurture our commitments to others. I hope that those of us who witnessed and benefited from Maureen’s unique combination of generosity and rigor will find our own ways to carry on her legacy of mentorship—as sociologists, as advocates, and as participants in the lives of those around us. Our efforts may not look the same as hers and they may not take place in the same venues, but they can draw on the same well of inspiration to which she worked to help us gain access.

Brandy Ellison, University of Notre Dame

* * *

I first met Maureen Hallinan in 1984, on the day I interviewed for a position in the sociology department at Wisconsin. She had already accepted a position at Notre Dame, and yet she was warm and encouraging about my prospects as well as thoughtful and constructive in her feedback. This conversation set the tone for our relationship of 30 years, and although we grew to be colleagues and friends, she remained a mentor to me. Among the highlights of our relationship were several meetings of the “Midwest sociology of education group,” in which we would gather together with our students, most memorably in South Bend, to present our ongoing research and provide feedback in a community of like-minded scholars. She would be very pleased that our former students and mentees—now established scholars in their own rights—have recently re-established this tradition.

Maureen’s leadership in the sociology of education cannot be overstated. Her concern was not just with her own research or that of her close colleagues, but with the development of a field of inquiry. She led numerous collaborative projects, many resulting in edited volumes that advanced the field. Perhaps the most important of these was the Handbook of the Sociology of Education (2000), which continues to inspire new research directions.

Adam Gamoran, William T. Grant Foundation President

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Professionally speaking, Maureen Hallinan’s intense interests and great contributions to sociology were in the quantitative sociology of education. When I arrived at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1979 as a new assistant professor, with background and interests in ethnomethodology and conversation analysis, I could never have predicted that we would become close colleagues and friends. However, my family and I luckily landed in the same neighborhood as Maureen and her family and, with children approximately the same ages; we bonded as families and continued our close relationships after Maureen, et al., moved to South Bend and the University of Notre Dame. I always felt like Maureen befriended us as a family. She had a great gift for relationships even though—or because—she usually started them off by some kind of teasing insult. That’s what happened on that first occasion of going to her home for dinner. When we crossed the threshold, she greeted us with something like, “Well you found your way here! Congratulations!” We lived about two blocks away and this was delivered in a completely ironic way. Eventually, we learned to give back what we got, and she loved that kind of repartee.

Until she left for Notre Dame in 1984, Maureen and I shared five years together in the UW-Madison sociology department. Here, I felt like Maureen “be-colleagued” me in the department just as she had befriended our family. The kind of work I do and did was not close to anything else in the department, and it also was distant from Maureen’s interests and contributions. With an office a few doors away from mine, however, Maureen continuously reached out to ask how and what I was doing; she read my work, and she gave me her most incisive and honest reactions to it. Because of this, at my request, she became my official representative to the executive committee (tenured faculty) and, as the committee did its annual review, sensitively and carefully gave me the kind of feedback that helped me grow in my work and eventually gain tenure. In subsequent years, whenever I had a professional or personal issue, she was one of the first whom I could call or email and dependably obtain the utmost in percipient and wise guidance.

My wife and I were fortunate to visit with Maureen just two short months before she died, and even then, as weak as she was, she was still talking sociology of education and teasing and advising in equal measure. Her incomparable voice will ring not just in our ears, but also in many ears, for decades to come.

Doug Maynard, University of Wisconsin

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Maureen Hallinan’s scholarship and mentoring greatly influenced many scholars, and I am fortunate enough to be included in that group. Maureen’s research on opportunities to learn is at the center of much research in the sociology of education, is a key mechanism to explaining inequality in educational outcomes, and shaped my research agenda. Maureen was the first professor that I met at the University of Notre Dame, and her passion for education is why I became a sociologist of education. Maureen challenged her students to have a strong theoretical framework in their work to accompany strong analyses. While at times this demand and the necessary refinement was challenging, Maureen’s feedback and determination was invaluable in learning how to conduct high-quality research. It was not until later that I learned that the struggle was part of the process.

Not only did Maureen challenge those she worked with directly but also the larger research community. In her 1997 article in The American Sociologist, Maureen challenges all sociologists to produce “good sociological theory” so that we, as a discipline, can contribute to society. Maureen leaves behind a legacy that includes scholarship but much more. She leaves behind a challenge that is as relevant today as it was when it was first published—to produce good sociological theory.

Elizabeth Covay Minor, Michigan State University

* * *

One cannot think of opportunities for learning without recognizing the imprimatur of Maureen Hallinan on these ideas, whether focusing on the opportunities accrued through: ability grouping in classrooms; the social ties among peer groups; or the ascriptive characteristics of race, ethnicity, or gender. Unbeknownst to many, she was a mathematical child prodigy. These skills and interests helped secure her esteemed place as one of the rare women in social science research whose quantitative work in sociology and sociology of education pressed for a new standard of rigor and quality. One of our most prolific scholars, this dynamic woman not only changed our understanding of social structures in schools, but perhaps most importantly also changed the career opportunities of her students, colleagues, and friends. We will always champion her work, but those of us who knew her well would like others to understand her efforts in promoting the careers of others. I will always miss her wry sense of humor that made one learn to laugh at oneself, and keep one’s work in perspective. When she was elected President of ASA, I wrote a blurb about her life and accomplishments and titled it, “In a Class By Herself.” And indeed she is and will always be to me, in a class by herself. We will miss her terribly.

Barbara Schneider, Michigan State University, President of the American Educational Research Association

* * *

Maureen Hallinan was a deeply intelligent, hilarious, tenacious, determined, insightful, undaunted, courageous woman. She moved through her remarkably full life as a breathtakingly successful, and stunningly brilliant scholar, teacher, and intellectual who passionately believed that every child was capable of learning, if only given the opportunity.

I remember our very first encounter, nearly 25 years ago. I was giving a lecture in the Hesburgh Center, on Notre Dame as a Catholic University. And there sat this lady near the front of the audience, simply GLARING at me, evincing a mixture of disapproval and pity. Though I didn’t know who she was, I was simply terrified of her. I sought her out at the reception after my talk, and introduced myself. She made it immediately clear that she had little time for a white, male, chauvinistic priest. I found her at once scary and intriguing. I invited her to lunch, and there, one on one, I discovered one of the most marvelous people I would ever meet in my life. Someone who would become a treasured soulmate and one of my life’s great friends.

Among her myriad academic achievements, Maureen was instrumental in the development of the Institute for Educational Initiatives (IEI) at the University of Notre Dame. The Institute has grown dramatically in its 15-year history and now provides an intellectual home at Notre Dame for more than 60 Faculty Fellows from a range of academic disciplines who are united by a shared interest in K-12 education. Through teaching, research, and outreach, IEI Fellows strive to improve the education of all young people, particularly the disadvantaged, with a special—though not exclusive—call to sustain, strengthen, and transform elementary and secondary Catholic schools.

Timothy R. Scully, Hackett Family Director of the Institute for Educational Initiatives

* * *

Although Maureen Hallinan and I were both graduate students at the University of Chicago, she graduated before I arrived and I never met her there—but certainly we had all heard about her outstanding career. When I got to know her, she had just been elected President of the ASA, and most improbably, she had been elected through a write-in campaign. Myra Marx Ferree was the new Vice President, and I was the new Secretary. These election results led one prominent male sociologist to snort, “Who are these feminist nobodies?”

It did not seem an auspicious beginning to an ASA presidency, but Maureen showed up at the ASA Annual Meeting wearing a button that said “Feminist Nobody.” I would come to learn that an impish sense of humor was central to Maureen’s personality. Many times I saw her lighten the mood in a meeting with a witty remark, often a self-deprecating one, that broke the tension.

Her good humor did not impede her no-nonsense and principled approach to her own research, to her beloved Notre Dame, nor to the problems facing ASA. She believed deeply that research such as hers, aimed at understanding inequality in education, could lead to improvements for students, teachers, schools, and the country. Those of us who were fortunate enough to work with her remain inspired by her passion for education and her excitement at research.  And even with so many good memories of her, we will miss her very much.

Teresa Sullivan, University of Virginia President

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