Jim Gruber and Terry Weiner
In the fall of 1970 it is rumored that a group of graduate students showed up who had been selected partly with the input of a faculty member who was leaving and wanted to leave a “legacy”. Whether true or not that is what happened. The students who were admitted in that year and shortly thereafter included an unusual number of students not in the typical mold for UNC. Fewer were interested in demography, medical sociology or new statistical methods. Often they were turned on by theory, particularly critical theory, and were interested in posing questions tinged with a Marxist point of view. The list included students like Lars Bjorn, Dwight Billings, James Gruber, William Corsaro, Ray and Susan Eve, Daniel Monti, Rick Kurz, Willie Rice and Terry Weiner.
Many continuing students found them a breath of fresh air and joined in some of their ventures (Alan Immersheim, for example). One of these ventures was a critical theory study group, led by William Corsaro and Dwight Billings, that met several times a term to go over theorists and works not being discussed in our regular courses. This group actually reached out to some disgruntled students at Duke and some joined in the study group. An interesting moment was when the book by Gouldner on the Coming Crisis of Western Sociology was published and the bookstore on Franklin Street could not keep up with the demand!
Another characteristic of the group in the early 70’s was that many were strongly attracted to faculty like Ev Wilson, Dick Cramer, Chic Goldsmid, Patricia Rieker, Robert Stauffer and others in the department known to care about teaching. Several of the students in this class and those that followed went on to teach at prestigious liberal arts colleges like Weiner to Union, Sheila Bennett to Bryn Mawr, Kurz to Lawrence College, and Sacks to Kenyon. Some of these faculty, like Goldsmid and Stauffer, would eventually leave UNC to teach at prestigious colleges like Kalamazoo and Oberlin.
Of course this class and the other classes in the early 70’s also enjoyed and benefited from working closely with the faculty and relations were positive in a time of turmoil in the rest of our society. Several worked closely with James Wiggins, Gerhard Lenski, Richard Simpson, Amos Hawley and Glen Elder for instance. Another major influence was from Leonard Cottrell who had retired to UNC and found himself gathering students under his wing and encouraging their work in unexpected ways. In a Ph.D program that heavily steeped in quantitative methods, Pat Rieker offered to our cohort what was perhaps the first course ever in qualitative methods.
It is interesting to note that many of these students (1970- 71 classes) would later hold prestigious positions in academic administration (Terry Weiner- Provost, Russell Sage College, Howard Sacks, Provost Kenyon College, Sheila Bennett, Provost Hobart and William Smith) and most went on to hold endowed professorships at their respective institutions.
My (Terry’s) career after UNC was as a professor at Union College for 35 years and serving as Associate Dean of Faculty for 8 years there. I then left to become Provost of Russell Sage College now known as The Sage Colleges. I mainly study health care in comparative perspective and lead student groups to Canada and Europe to see alternative systems up close. My favorite personal quote from my experience at UNC was from an evaluation of my teaching by Ev Wilson- ” Terry you are either going to be a great teacher or a great Rabbi- not sure which!” It was never really an issue; I chose teaching.
I, Gruber, taught at UWisconsin-Parkside 1975-79 and then at UMichigan-Dearborn 1979-2016. I was awarded a named professorship in 2012 (Frances R. Cousens). Most of my research over the last three decades has been on sexual harassment, particularly in workplaces. I’ve also done consulting as an expert witness in sexual harassment cases since the mid-1980’s. I am currently finishing work on a case for the EEOC.
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