’67-72

My path to the Chapel Hill started with an undergraduate degree in England (Leicester University), an MA from McMaster University in Canada and a Ph.D from in Washington University, St. Louis in1967. Bob (doc) Hamblin was my supervisor and Irving Louis Horowitz was a member of my committee. It may seem strange to have these two serving on the same committee but they worked well together and were very supportive. I also learned a lot from a great faculty that included Gouldner, Horowitz, Pittman and Jules Henry during the two years I spent as graduate student at “Wash U”. Jimmy Wiggins, also a student of Doc Hamblin graduated from Wash U about two years before I did and Doc suggested that I apply for a faculty position at UNC Chapel Hill. I also applied to Wisconsin and the University of Washington at Seattle. The Chapel Hill UNC Sociology Department was the first to invite me to visit. I presented my dissertation (a social psychological lab experiment) to a stellar group of faculty whose outstanding academic reputations I was well aware of. Tad Blalock was one of the faculty members present who asked questions and I clearly recall the generous way in which he framed them.

Currently, I am a professor Emeritus (sociology) and based in a research centre I created in 1983 (La Marsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution). Since 1993, I have been teaching, researching and publishing on violence associated with separation and divorce. I teach a research course on conflict resolution (adjudication) in family courts located in and around Toronto. Other than that, I play squash and watch Happy Days. Turned off Scott Baio however since the Republican convention. I became a US citizen shortly after my arrival in Chapel Hill and look forward to voting in the upcoming election. Married to Donna and we spend many happy days with our grandchildren.

Recollections: The Bowerman/Babe Andrew/Alumni days
When I arrived in Chapel Hill in 1967 I brought with me a hybrid specialization as a “sociological social psychologist”. The sociological specialization was evident in a macro study of violence in North Carolina penitentiaries and youth institutions for N.C Corrections. You cannot be more sociological than to have an article from this study published in the AJS. My co-author was Harold Grasmick, an excellent graduate student.

Demonstrating a credible social psychological specialization was a bit more complicated. For one thing, there were two social psychological specializations when I arrived. One specialization was represented by Glen Elder – my office on the fourth floor of the Alumni Building was adjacent to his- the other was represented by Jimmy Wiggins. I learned a great deal from both “experimental” Jimmy and “Life Course” Glen but I leaned more toward Jim. The result was trouble of two kinds.

First, I designed an experiment to test the “trigger pulls the finger” hypothesis formulated by aggression theorist-researcher Leonard Berkowitz. To this end obtained a bunch of weapons, including a handgun-a prohibited weapon. The weapons were placed on a table in plain sight of students randomly assigned to the treatment group. To this day I do not know the name of the person, group or collectivity that informed the local ablished Chapel Hill constabulary who approached me with interrogation in mind. I explained. The experiment continued. My credibility as a social psychologist was est(sort of) by a publication- Does the Trigger pull the Finger- with graduate student co-authors Louis Miller and Paul Wienir) in Sociometry.

The second source of trouble was serralmus natteri –red bellied piranha fish. Following ethologists Tinbergen and Lorenz I set about testing the natural selection hypothesis that inhibitions against attacking and killing conspecifics would vary with the lethality of the weapons (fangs, talons, claws, teeth) they possessed. Ergo, two piranha would be less likely to attack each other during a four week period than two goldfish sharing the same fish tank during the following four weeks. The experiment ended when I returned from a visit to a penitentiary near Norfolk to find that one of piranha had jumped (or was pushed) out of the tank. Note that this experiment was conducted in a Sociology Department- albeit one in which the ecology of the fish tank was in play.

Faculty who were present during the Bowerman/Babe Andrew years will recall, as I do, tumultuous times in which a few of our graduates left to join SDS; table tennis on Tuesday evenings with a group that included Tad (lots of spin) Blalock and Jimmy Wiggins; assembling for lunch at the Rathskeller in a group that often included Dick Udry; walking a picket line in support of striking cafeteria workers; participating in attempts to desegregate places of work and entertainment; beating Duke and outstanding graduate students.
The end

During my tenure in the Department my wife was working as a social worker in the local hospital. After our daughter Megan was born we left Chapel Hill in order to live and work closer to my wife’s parents who lived in a suburb of Toronto. During the past 40 years I occasionally visit Chapel Hill in April on my return to Toronto from Florida (Englewood). The motor car I drive has a faded license plate that says UNC Tarheels.

desellis@yorku.ca
Submitted July 2016