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PhD 1974

In the late 1960’s, I was finishing my engineering degree at Georgia Tech when I decided that I would rather have a career in the social sciences. I read most of the limited number of sociology books in the Tech library, including Human Ecology by Amos Hawley.

I coordinated my site visits to potential engineering employers with visits to sociology departments – Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Chicago, and UNC. I got funding at several but really liked the collegial feel I got in Chapel Hill and the chance to work with Amos Hawley whose book meshed with the systemic orientation from my engineering training. The quantitative nature of the department with Tad Blalock and Krishnan Namboodiri also played to my math skills.

I was awed by the faculty during my first year. I still remember visiting Amos Hawley’s office my first semester. The office seemed to be miles deep and I remember walking under these walls full of journals and books to reach his desk. Amos was a reticent man and he always seemed to be considering his thoughts before he replied — making me think I had said something stupid. I especially remember the time when I proposed doing a paper that I thought could fill the requirements of both his population course and Jim Wiggins’s Social Psychology course. When I proposed my topic, “Social-Psychological Determinants of Fertility,” he paused a full 60 seconds before he replied, “I don’t think there are any.”

My other story about Amos Hawley was when the department had invited George Homans to give a talk to the faculty and students. Before the talk a number of faculty and students were gathered in the old Department lounge on the top floor of the Alumni Building. Hawley and Homans were debating the great man theory of history. Homans had presented the case of William the Conqueror as his example of an individual who had changed history. But Hawley countered that the Norman Conquest could be better explained by the institution of primogeniture that forced disinherited second sons to gain fame and fortune by conquest.

My personal life changed when I read a notice from my classmate Anamaria Viveros on the department bulletin board asking to share a ride to the SSS meetings in Atlanta and offering to pay gas. I had planned to drive to Atlanta to attend the meeting and see old friends at Georgia Tech, so I was happy to have company and gas money.

Anamaria and I had a lot of time to get to know each other on the trip to and from Atlanta as well as excursions around the city. We continued to see a lot of each other during the rest of the year but Anamaria had a commitment to return to a teaching job at the Catholic University in Santiago after finishing her Master’s Degree. My marriage proposal (romantically delivered under the bell tower) did not change her mind.

Suddenly I developed a great interest to doing my dissertation in Chile — despite my lack of Spanish, funding, or professional contacts.

Thanks to some connections made on my behalf by Amos Hawley and Henry Landsberger, I was able to arrange a research desk at the U.N. Latin American Center for Demography in Santiago. I spent the year of 1970 developing my dissertation framework, collecting data, learning Spanish, observing the election of Salvador Allende, and convincing Anamaria to marry me. We celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary this September.

We returned to Chapel Hill for a year and then I was offered a position at the University of California at Riverside with ex-UNC professors Lew Carter and Ed Butler.
After a couple of years in Southern California, I realized I was not going to finish my dissertation unless I returned to UNC which we did for the 1973-74 school year.

This time I did complete my dissertation on rural-urban migration in Chile and took a research position at the U. S. Census Bureau. I spent my entire career at the Census Bureau studying migration, making population estimates and projections, and finally serving as the chief of the Population Division.

Anamaria and I have two children – Daniel who got his PhD in Sociology from Wisconsin and now has a research position at the University of Connecticut and Andrea who has masters degrees in epidemiology from Hopkins and in public health from GWU and now works at U.S. AID coordinating the infectious disease programs in Africa.

submitted February 2020