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Joseph R. Gusfield


1923 - 2015 Obituary Condolences Gallery
Joseph R. Gusfield Obituary
Gusfield, Joseph R. 1923 ~ 2015 SAN DIEGO -- With sadness we announce the death on January 5, 2015, of Joseph R. Gusfield, internationally renowned sociologist and founding chair of the sociology department at UC San Diego. He was 91 years old. Gusfield was born in Chicago, on September 6, 1923, and enrolled in the University of Chicago in 1941. He served in the Army in WWII, and returned to Chicago, where he earned his BA and Ph.D. degrees. His dissertation was made into a classic book, "Symbolic Crusade: Status Politics and the American Temperance Movement" (1963). This work remains a foundation for the study of contemporary "culture wars." After teaching at the University of Illinois, he was recruited in 1968 to be the founding chair of UC San Diego's sociology department. The strengths of the university's sociology department still manifest the influence of his vision. At UCSD, Gusfield undertook a study of drinking and driving that lead to another classic, "The Culture of Public Problems: Drinking, Driving, and the Symbolic Order" (1981). Joe's sociological vision was inspired by activism and travel as well as scholarship. In March 1965 he participated in the third civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery. He lived in India as a Fulbright scholar and taught in Tokyo before coming to San Diego. Together with others in the founding generation, he played a major role in shaping UCSD. He did this through his wise judgment, and his personal warmth and generosity. He and his wife, Irma Gusfield, provided countless hours of social support to generations of colleagues. In 2009, Joe and Irma moved to Danville, CA to be closer to their children in Oakland and Davis, CA. There, Joe became a Distinguished Affiliated Scholar at UC Berkeley's Center for the Study of Law and Society. He also furthered his life-long involvement in painting, exhibiting regularly at shows sponsored by Art With Elders. Irma, his wife of 66 years, died on the same date in 2013. He is survived by his son Dan, daughter Chaya and granddaughters Yeshi, Talia and Shira; daughters-in-law Carrie Shepard and Judith Dambowic; and by his "son-out-law" Hal Offen. He was predeceased by his daughter Julie. A campus memorial will be held on Monday, April 6, 2015, beginning at 3 p.m. in the Atkinson Pavilion of the UCSD Faculty Club. For more information, please contact [email protected] The Gusfield family suggests donations be made to the UCSD sociology department in support of its annual Gusfield Lecture. Gifts can also be made to the Art With Elders program at Eldergivers, 236 West Portal Ave., #845, San Francisco, CA 94127.

Published in The San Diego Union Tribune on Mar. 22, 2015
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