Chris Uggen's Blog: saul bellow, dr. king, <i>and</i> joe theisman

Monday, October 09, 2006

saul bellow, dr. king, and joe theisman

speaking to high school students last week, i got evangelical about the virtues of the sociology undergraduate major. the combination of broad and useful conceptual tools and basic methodological training can prepare our students for a multitude of great careers in public service, print and broadcast media, and running organizations.

yet we don't really claim our undergrads once they leave the university. sometimes people act as though they fell into a sociology major by accident and emerged unscathed by the experience. i know this isn't true, so i'd like to compile a list of famous or influential persons who majored in sociology as undergraduates. a quick google got me to this asa compilation taken from a 2001 oregon commencement address by peter dreier:

Wellington Webb, mayor of Denver
Brett Schundler, mayor of Jersey City
Annette Strauss, former mayor of Dallas
Rev. Martin Luther King
Roy Wilkins, former head of NAACP
Rev. Jesse Jackson
Rev. Ralph Abernathy
Shirley Chisholm, former Congresswoman from NY
Maxine Waters, Congresswoman from LA
Barbara Mikulski, US Senator from Maryland
Tim Holden, Congressman from Pennsylvania
Cardinal Theordore McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, DC
Saul Alinsky, father of community organizing
Ronald Reagan (double major in sociology and economics)
Emily Balch, 1946 Nobel Peace Prize winner (a social worker and social reformer)
Francis Perkins, social reformer and former Secretary of Labor
Richard Barajas, Chief Justice, Texas Supreme Court

Saul Bellow, novelist
Regis Philbin, TV host
Dan Aykroyd, actor/Blues Brother
Robin Williams, actor/comedian
Paul Shaffer, bandleader on David Letterman Show (and before that, Saturday Night Live)
Dinah Shore, singer
Ruth Westheimer, the “sex doctor”

Alonzo Mourning, Miami Heat
Bryant Stith, Boston Celtics
Brian Jordan, Atlanta Braves
Joe Theisman, NFL quarterback
Eric Bjornson, Dallas Cowboys
Bobby Taylor, Eagles cornerback
Ahmad Rashad, Sportscaster

there are some impressive names on the list (paul shaffer!). but c'mon, we can do better than this, can't we? the minnversity has about 600 sociology majors alone! what famous and infamous undergrad sociologists should be added?

i was not a sociology undergraduate major, opting instead for a broader behavioral science/criminal justice track. i'll do my part, though, adding pete seeger (that makes sense, now doesn't it? how could asa have caught eric bjornson but missed pete seeger?), h. rap brown, and james blunt. for good or for ill, all three put their sociology training to work at some point in their careers.

who else should we be claiming or renouncing?


At 7:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steve Nash

At 8:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Douglass North, the 1993 Nobel Laureate in economics, majored in soc as an undergrad.

Also, where's Du Bois?

At 10:02 PM, Anonymous sarah said...

I have a hard time believing that there aren't more sports figures on the list. It seemed to me (as an undergrad soc major) that right next to recreation studies, sociology was pretty high on the majors-for-jocks list...

At 11:26 PM, Blogger Woz said...

I have to heartily concur with Sarah. There have to be a million famous athletes who were soc undergrads (seriously, watch your saturday football, people). I'm pretty sure it's because at most universities soc has the least number of required credit hours, but maybe athletes are just really interested in social processes. Maybe...

At 7:28 AM, Blogger Radio Free Newport said...

Good post, Chris. This hits on a pet peeve of mine. I could be wrong, and Mike W can maybe back me up, but I think our dept does a poor job of promoting the program to undergrads. Our website is especially bad in this regard (and we still have last fall's speakers listed as the current events!). I've been something of an evangelist with the college-bound students in my family, and I hope to continue doing that once I'm in a t-t gig.

The Pistons' Tayshaun Prince was a sociology major at Kentucky (and a serious student, from what I've heard).

I'm pretty sure several high-profile Duke basketball players were sociology majors. I know this only because the program has caught flak for finding a way to graduate basketball players in three years, which leads to many sociology jokes among people who hate the program.

At 11:44 AM, Blogger Mike W. said...

What's an undergrad?


At 9:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brevin Knight.

Du Bois was in history, I believe. (Unless Anon 8:07 was making a joke. Maybe s/he was.)

At 5:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kent Nagano, current music director of the Bayerischen Staatsorchesters and the Montreal Symphony

At 6:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't find the specific Ph.D. that Du Bois had a degree in, but he was a professor of Sociology at Atlanta University and chaired their dept. from 1934-1944.

A challenge: Read _The Philadelphia Negro_ along with, say, WJW's _The Truly Disadvantaged_ and see if you can say Du Bois *wasn't* a sociologist!

At 5:48 PM, Blogger MFWeiner said...

Michelle Obama (Princeton, '85)

At 6:09 PM, Blogger christopher uggen said...

thanks, melissa -- nice catch.

At 2:01 PM, Blogger christopher uggen said...

evidently we can't claim douglas north so easily, though he apparently sat in on some of Robert Merton’s classes.


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