B.A with Honors, 1969, Ph.D., 1977
My fondest memory of Chapel Hill is taking the Sociology Honors Seminar on aggression with Dr. Richard Cramer in spring 1968 during the height of the Vietnam War. We read about Konrad Lorenz’s aggressive poster-colored fish and it changed my thinking about the nature of human beings forever. Hobbes was right after all! I took social stratification with Dr. Rupert Vance and wrote an honors thesis in sociology with Dr. Edgar Butler on the topic of social mobility in Sweden.
Armed with my new knowledge about the dynamics of social class, I set off to change the world. Along the way, I worked for a year as a caseworker in the Department of Social Services in Durham where I interviewed desperately ill people with no insurance and little money to determine if they qualified for healthcare from the new Medicaid program. I learned much more about the many inequalities created by social class from the 300+ people in my caseload that year. When I entered the graduate program at UNC in fall 1970, I was fortuitously offered an NIMH fellowship in medical sociology and my career path was set. As a graduate student, I was greatly influenced by Dr. Robert Wilson, director of the medical sociology division, and indirectly by Dr. Bert Kaplan in the UNC School of Public Health who introduced me to the work of Drs. Alexander and Dorothea Leighton on community based social psychiatry.
The two strongest threads in my career came from my experiences in the Department of Sociology at UNC: (1) applied research in healthcare; and (2) commitment to undergraduate research. My interest in applied research in healthcare was reinforced by my most influential career mentor, Dr. Hiram Friedsam. Dr. Friedsam was a WWII veteran who got his Ph.D. in sociology on the G.I Bill at the University of Texas. He joined the faculty at the University of North Texas in 1947 and became one of the university’s most innovative leaders. He developed the graduate program in sociology at UNT and was a pioneer in gerontology, developing an innovative long-term care training program with one of the first grants from the Administration on Aging. To do the kind of applied work he wanted to do, he had to create a new school of applied social science, now known as the College of Public Affairs and Community Service (PACS).
Friedsam was fond of saying that you are better off being lucky than smart and, I was certainly lucky when our paths crossed. I spent two years in a post-doctoral position in the Center for Studies in Aging in PACS where I learned to write grants and to work with communities before moving into a joint faculty appointment in sociology and gerontology. Over the years, my most satisfying work involved community service projects to develop healthcare clinics for low-income populations in Fort Worth, TX. Working with community leaders was a lesson in practical sociology. My most inspirational community partner was Mrs. Walter Beatrice Barbour, a high school counselor, justice of the peace, and the first African American elected to the City Council in Fort Worth. For my work with her in securing a community oriented primary care clinic in the Stop Six neighborhood, I receive the Hiram J. Friedsam Award for Community Service from UNT – a major highlight of my life.
I never forgot the strong mentoring I was fortunate to receive at UNC. My favorite undergraduate courses to teach were research methods and statistics. I always included opportunities for the students to develop their own research projects which I think I enjoyed as much as they did. I was again lucky to be able to spend the last decade working with another pioneer at UNT, Dr. Gloria Cox, a graduate of the political science department at the University of South Carolina and the Founding Dean of the Honors College at UNT. Together, we developed an undergraduate research track for Honors students across the university. We developed Honors courses to mentor students in the research process throughout their undergraduate careers. We developed an undergraduate research day where more than 200 students annually presented their research with their faculty mentors. For me, the jewel in the crown was the development of an online undergraduate research journal, The Eagle Feather, so the young scholars could publish their work. I was never happier than when I was working with the students and their faculty mentors to edit their research for publication. I continue to work with the Council on Undergraduate Research and the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (which coincidentally was founded at UNC Asheville – the nation’s first and finest public liberal arts college) and I hope to do so for many years to come.
Submitted March 2016