In reading the former student and faculty reflections from my era that have been submitted thus far, I realized that my Chapel Hill experience was a bit different in both process and outcome. I arrived in Chapel Hill from Boston in August, 1967 with a wife of six weeks, Carolyn, a U-Haul trailer attached to our car with all our earthly possessions, and no housing. A number of things quickly became apparent. Housing was hard to secure. My Boston accent meant that I was a carpetbagger Yankee to anyone off campus. This was not going to be another Boston College experience.
In fact, things could not have worked out better. On the first day, we obtained an apartment in Glen Lennox across the street from the University Motel where our U Haul was parked. The department led by Babe Andrews welcomed my accent as an endearing quirk. Then began a somewhat distinctive journey for me that linked me as much to the local community as it did to the Sociology Department.
I went to Carmichael Hall, the basketball arena at the time (pre-Dean Dome), to the Sports Information Office. At BC I had worked in the SID for two years and checked to see if they needed a student assistant. As fate would have it, one student assistant had recently resigned to take a UNC stringer job with the Charlotte Observer. Despite the Boston accent, they gave me a part time job in the office. While my sociology world was developing, I worked over the next two years answering fan and newspaper inquiries, writing press releases, and keeping stats at the basketball and football games (long before laptops). The job resulted in the summer of 1969 in my becoming the Sports Director of WCHL radio station in Chapel Hill. This meant doing Saturday pre-game football shows, going to every home and away football and basketball game, doing a Dean Smith post-game interview after every basketball game before the Tar Heel Network did them, doing play by play on the home baseball games and doing four weekday 5-minute sport summary shows–two live and two taped. And, yes, my Boston accent remained and when I would go into gas stations and other spots, after I spoke a couple of sentences, people would ask, “Are you Hank Steadman”?
The second major feature of my Chapel Hill years was the cadre of exceptional graduate student colleagues. For the three years in Chapel Hill, folks like Joe Morrissey, John Freeman, Mike Flynn, Mike Hannan, and Bud Mathews, among many others, intellectually and socially nurtured this Yankee who came with an M.A. from Boston College, but had to strive to be close to their league. They were a brilliant group along with the others who comprised this era. Bridge in what passed for a Student Lounge in Alumni Hall at lunch time, beer and pickled eggs at The Shack, and weekend poker games, complimented the intellectual pursuits.
Meantime with my Fellowship in Medical Sociology headed by Harvey Smith in the outbuilding on the other side of campus from Alumni Hall, I tried to carve out a program that fit the department’s strengths, which were legion, and my unstructured, but somewhat fringe interests. Despite walking out of one of Lew Carter’s Methods classes and totally pissing off Amos Hawley in class so badly that he spent the entire next class responding to my pique resulting in the “L” in Human Ecology, Dick Simpson took me on for my dissertation and expertly guided my research at a UNC outpatient pediatric clinic. I left after three years with a dissertation underway and came back the following May to defend it. Also, quite importantly, I also left with a 9 month old baby girl, Sharon, along with Carolyn.
I mentioned earlier that my outcome from UNC was also different. In 1970, I left to take a non-academic position. The only Ph.D of that era that did so. It was in the Mental Health Research Unit of the New York State Department of Mental Health in Albany, NY. My assignment there changed the course of my professional life. They had an NIMH grant that they gave me to lead studying the results of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions that resulted in 967 maximum security inmates from NYC prison hospitals for mentally ill inmates being sent in the summer of 1966 to 26 civil state hospitals. My job was to do a retrospective follow-up of how violent they were in those hospitals and in the community and the factors associated with their violence. My research world became the interfaces of the criminal justice and mental health systems. At that time, there were few other social science researchers in this area and the journals were crying for empirical studies. The conceptual and technical skills that I acquired in Chapel Hill equipped me tremendously well.
I never did any more sports writing or radio work. I stayed with NYS OMH until 1987, when I went into the private sector establishing Policy Research Associates in Delmar, NY. We had one NIMH grant for two and a half years with a staff of four people. It has been a successful venture. We are still in business with 52 employees. We are funded by the federal government, private foundations and individual contracts with various state agencies. Much of our current work is the application of empirical work to program development in behavioral health issues in criminal justice, juvenile justice, homelessness and service members, veterans and their families. I have reflected the academic motifs of Chapel Hill with six books, around 150 articles in peer reviewed journals and a bunch of chapters. Nonetheless, my primary rewards are working with communities and organizations to develop more effective opportunities for the terribly disadvantage people with behavioral health disorders who get unnecessarily caught up in the criminal justice system.. Believe it or not, the Sociology Department in the late 1960s generated all this. And at 71 years of age I am still plugging along.
Henry J. Steadman, Ph.D.
Policy Research Associates, Inc.
345 Delaware Ave.
Delmar, NY 12054
Fax: (518) 439-7612
Submitted August 2015