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In Memoriam: A Tribute to Alison I. Griffith by Naomi Nichols

I never set out to become a professor. I went to graduate school to do an M.Ed. because I didn’t want to grow up. I’d been teaching overseas, and I knew I wanted to come back to Canada, but I didn’t want to get caught up in climbing a school board salary grid like many of my friends who were teachers in Ontario were doing at the time. So, I went to graduate school. And I only applied to one school (York University) because the idea of an academic track or an academic life had not occurred to me, and I liked that one didn’t have to choose a department at York. My first semester, I took a class with Alison, and as a consequence, I painstakingly read Writing the Social for the first time. I remember coming to her office – something I’d never done as an undergraduate student – with the book and a bunch of drawings and ideas on loose-leaf paper to see if she could help coalesce my sensemaking. My undergraduate degree was in English Literature and Biology, so none of the words Dorothy Smith was using nor the people she was citing were familiar to me. But there was something about what she was saying that spoke to me – and engaged me. I just couldn’t organize my thoughts enough to figure out what it was, and I wanted to ask for Alison’s help.

Looking back on my 25-year-old self, I expect I must have come across as so earnest and pathetic that Alison felt she had to take me on as a student. I had not been assigned to work with her during the admissions process, but I was desperate to be taken into her fold. She represented a whole world that I didn’t know existed. That fall, she invited our class (if my memory serves) to an event on learning to do institutional ethnography organized at the University of Toronto, where I was able to listen to Dorothy herself, Ellen Pence, Didi Khayatt, Roxanna Ng and other IE-folks talk about Dorothy’s influence on their research. My favourite memories are of being in groups of IE scholars (most of whom are now retired) and listening to them talk about their days as Dorothy’s students – the parties they would have and their experiences figuring out how to do this sociology Dorothy had conceptualized. Alison invited me to things. She’d say things like, “let’s put this lunch on the project,” and make me feel like I was part of a world of ideas over lunch or drinks that I hadn’t previously known existed. She made me feel included, and she treated me like my ideas had value. She also offered incisive critiques on numerous occasions when I’d gotten something wrong or started in the wrong place or sent her something that was poorly organized and not yet ready for her to look at.

So, when I received a scholarship in my first year of graduate school, I decided maybe I’d just stick around and apply to do a Ph.D. Again, because I didn’t know there was such a thing as an academic track nor that there was any savvy one should be exercising about where one goes to graduate school or whether or not to continue working with the same supervisor, I didn’t apply anywhere else. I only applied to York, so I could keep working with Alison. Because it wasn’t just graduate school I enjoyed, I liked being in Alison’s world. And I’m so glad that I did this. Because I received exceptional supervision from 2004 until 2019, when – after a visit with her and Harvey in May – Alison insisted that perhaps now I could refer to her as a colleague. This last visit was very impactful for me because a) I knew she was going to die soon; and b) her mentorship and guidance were soul-salve for me at a time when I really needed this. I hadn’t realized how close to the edge of my own capacity to handle my life I was until I had her caring insights and advice to draw from again. I think it may be the case that once you are someone’s supervisor, you are always their supervisor, even if you are both grown women and many years have passed. And even if one of you insists that the other refer to you as a colleague now.

Indeed, it is now that I have my own cadre of doctoral and MA supervisees that I recognize how lucky I was as a student (and how lucky my own students are as a consequence of Alison’s exceptional generosity with me). My ethics as a scholar are Alison’s ethics. She taught me how to be an academic, and I am so glad that she did. I am regularly shown how unique she was in an academic world that rewards self-interest and self-promotion, and thus how lucky I have been to have been mentored by someone who sought to foster a different type of academic culture.

When I said goodbye to Alison, it was a busy Labour Day Monday afternoon, and I was on the front porch with my children. The call caught me off-guard and then – as is the case in a family full of people who largely just see you as a caregiver – I was quickly drawn away from my grief and back into the ordinary activities of preparing dinner and lunches, drawing baths and organizing supplies for the first day of school. Since that day on the porch when I cried into the phone, I haven’t taken enough time to let the magnitude of her influence on me nor her recent death sink in. I’m grateful to have had a chance to take some time to do this today.

Posted: 05/19/20

Robert Aponte

Dr. Robert Aponte, an Associate Professor of Sociology and an Adjunct Associate Professor of Latino Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, passed away from complications related to pancreatic cancer in January, 2020. He impacted innumerable people through his research, teaching, mentorship, activism, and friendship. His commitment to justice, concern for people on the margins, and warm sense of humor were apparent to everyone he met.

He received his PhD from the University of Chicago in 1991 and joined the Sociology Department at IUPUI in 1996. He served as department chair from 2003-2010, helped found the Latino Studies Certificate Program, and was the faculty advisor for the Latino Studies Student Association. Prior to his arrival at IUPUI, Robert helped found the Julian Samora Research Institute at Michigan State University, the premier Latino research institute in the Midwest.

Robert’s research interests and social commitments were wide ranging, including Latin American immigration, Latinos in the Midwest, race and ethnicity, drug policy, police violence, and anti-poverty policy. He published his research in many academic journals, such as Social Problems, International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Latino Studies Journal, Handbook of Marriage and the Family, Global Agenda for Social Justice, Race and Human Rights, and Journal of Latino-Latin American Studies. He was also the principal author of Latinos in Indiana: Characteristics, Challenges and Recommendations for Action, a research report prepared for Indiana Governor Frank O’Bannon.

Robert’s commitment to conducting research that addressed social injustices and led to positive social change was deep and abiding. As just one example of this deep commitment, he completed his last research article—"Police Homicides: The Terror of ‘American Exceptionalism’”—just ten days before his death.

Robert was a beloved teacher who developed strong relationships with his undergraduate and graduate students. He was particularly attentive to the experiences and needs of students of color and students who struggled with mental health and substance abuse challenges, and he formed strong bonds with students who shared his commitment to justice and social change. In recognition of this impact, he received the Latino Studies Program’s Distinguished Award and the Luis Alberto Ambroggio Center for Latino Studies’ Outstanding Professor of the Year Award.

Robert touched many lives. He inspired students, had a ready smile for colleagues, and worked until the end of his life to make the world a more just and compassionate place.

Robert leaves behind his loving partner of 14 years, and our colleague, Dr. Carrie Foote; their 16-year-old son Sami Ardah; his three adult children—Nina, Michael, and Bobby Aponte; his grandson Oliver Aponte, and his brother Willie Aponte, among many other loving relatives. He will be deeply missed and long remembered.

In leu of flowers, donations can be made in Robert’s memory to the newly created Robert Aponte Memorial Scholarship in Latino Studies at IUPUI  which will be used to support scholarships for undergraduate students pursuing a minor or certificate in Latino Studies in the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. https://www.myiu.org/one-time-gift?&account=I380015064

Posted: 05/18/20

James Edward Gruber

James E. Gruber, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, passed away peacefully June 26, 2019, at the Residence of Arbor Hospice. Born on December 31, 1946, in Marshfield, Wisconsin, he is survived by his loving family: wife Sheryl Pearson of Ann Arbor; mother Mildred Kafka Gruber of Marshfield, WI; step-daughters Lee Pearson of Washington, D.C., and Perry (Darin) McKeever of Birmingham, MI; granddaughter Ruby McKeever; and sister-in-law Jan Sherman of Canton, MI. In addition, he is survived by three cherished half-siblings he met in mid-life: Nancy (Louis) Duellman of Fountain City, WI; Judy (Don) Duellman of Marshfield, WI; and Don Ledden of Green Bay, WI. His father, Edwin Gruber, pre-deceased him. 

Jim Gruber was an exceptional scholar and beloved teacher and mentor. He was a faculty member in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at UM-Dearborn from 1979 to 2016, a founding member and teacher in the Women’s and Gender Studies program, and held numerous administrative and faculty governance positions, notably as Associate Dean of the Division of Interdisciplinary Studies, Chair of Behavioral Sciences, Director of Sponsored Research, and Chair of the Faculty Senate. 

It is difficult to imagine a career more distinguished. His research was path-breaking and socially consequential, his teaching transformative, his service engaged and generous. In numerous articles, conference papers, book chapters and books, his scholarship on sexual harassment and bullying was particularly influential, putting those issues into the public domain—internationally as well as nationally--decades before the Me-Too movement. Current scholars on sexual harassment, bullying, and the treatment of women in the workplace consider his work foundational. Even after his passing, his phone continues to ping daily with announcements that yet another scholar has cited one of his articles. His work led to his frequent testimony as an expert witness on behalf of both male and female plaintiffs in sexual harassment cases. He was engaged to work on over 40 such cases, the last on behalf of the EEOC. 

His courses on gender roles, social problems, and social psychology were transformative for generations of students—many of whom contacted him over the years to tell him of his influence on their social awareness and career paths. He was particularly proud of the student who first became a district attorney, and later a public defender; the student who went on to become a tenured professor of sociology also specializing in social justice issues; the student who thought grad school was beyond his reach until Jim encouraged him, but then became a distinguished health psychologist…and so many others. His interest in the treatment of women, and in poverty and inequality, arose partly out of the experience of his mother, who was a factory worker and a union steward under particularly harsh conditions, and later a day-care owner with her sister. He was inspired and motivated by her self-reliance, her strength, her optimism, and her sense of empowerment in the face of many social challenges. 

Jim made a pilgrimage a couple of years ago to Chapel Hill, NC, where he had attended graduate school at the University of North Carolina, in order to visit and thank one of his academic mentors, Prof. Richard Kramer, long retired. He would want his students to know that he was part of a long chain of nurturing teachers, and that caring begets more caring down the road. He often talked about one of the earliest intellectual influences in his life, Father Thomas Etten, a highly educated Jesuit priest who chose to teach religion in a rural high school in an inspiringly enlightened way. Jim felt that this man’s deep reading, curious and questioning nature, and intense critical thinking about the major questions of human experience set him on a path to his own areas of academic focus. Like his mentors, Jim was deeply humane and open-minded, and also intellectually rigorous. He once wrote that he became a sociologist “in order to understand the root causes of social and economic inequality….I have tried through my research, teaching, and public service to advocate for justice and to give a voice to those who are silenced because of prejudice and discrimination.” He honored that goal throughout his professional and personal life, studying (and advocating for change around) issues of poverty, homelessness, and hunger; bigotry and hatred; and mass incarceration. In service of his values, he worked with Habitat for Humanity, taught in a women’s prison, and supported a host of social justice organizations. 

Among his many honors, Jim was the recipient of both the UM-Dearborn campus’s Distinguished Research Award and Distinguished Service Award. For his work and advocacy on gender issues he was named the campus’s first male recipient of the Susan B. Anthony Award, and he was honored with the University of Michigan’s system-wide Sarah Goddard Power Award, granted for “significant achievement in contributing to the betterment of current challenges faced by women.” In 2012, he was awarded the College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters’ first Collegiate Professorship, the Frances Cousens Collegiate Professorship, named for a pioneering woman and a UM-Dearborn sociologist. 

A passionate birder, an avid enthusiast of the outdoors, a dedicated and patient fisherman, and a lifelong learner, Jim was a singularly good man. He was quiet, steady, and full of empathy. He spent 60 years returning every summer to his beloved cove on the Wisconsin River, fishing and communing with his best friends, Henry David Thoreau, St. Francis, and fishing buddy Joe Chenier. He lived his life in joy and awe, embracing travel, nature, and service to others. May he rest in peace, with companionable birds and muskies circling quietly around him. 

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his memory to any of the following: the UU Congregation, the Nature Conservancy, the Audubon Society, the Human Rights Campaign, Ann Arbor Safe House, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Arbor Hospice, or the ACLU.

Posted: 07/08/19


John F. Galliher

John F. Galliher, 81, of Columbia, passed away Tuesday, May 21, 2019, at Lenoir Woods in Columbia, Missouri.  He was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a son of the late Frank W. and Rea (Bates) Galliher.  

He graduated from Paseo High School in Kansas City.   After serving in the U.S. Air Force and receiving his undergraduate degree from the University of Kansas City, John was united in marriage to Jeanne Zuk, who survives at their home.

John went on to earn his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in sociology from Indiana University.  He was Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Missouri-Columbia and served as the University’s Director of Peace Studies for 16 years.  He was a prolific writer of professional books and journal articles and the recipient of many honors and awards including the Maxine Schutz Award for Distinguished Teaching.  Colleagues, students and friends describe him as a wonderful friend and mentor; a strong advocate for peace, justice and nonviolence and that person against whom you should measure a good person.  

He was a member of numerous professional associations and served as President of The Society for the Study of Social Problems.  John enjoyed reading, writing, jazz, his church, travel and especially his family.  His career was also his hobby and he often quipped that he would open a Sociology Shop upon retirement.  

He was a member of Calvary Episcopal Church, Columbia, serving on its Vestry and various taskforces and committees.  A Memorial Service will be held at the church at 11:00 a.m., Tuesday, May 28, 2019.

Along with his wife, John is survived by son, Daniel Galliher (Renee); daughter, Leigh Holliday (Mark); two grandchildren, Lily and Ryan Galliher; brother, James Galliher and grand pets Roxie, Cece, Annabelle and Cash. 

John was preceded in death by two brothers, Charles and Thomas.

Expressions of sympathy may be made to Calvary Episcopal Church, Hospice Compassus, Columbia’s Parkinson Support Group or the University of Missouri Peace Studies Program.  

Arrangements are under the direction of Parker-Millard Funeral Service and Crematory; 12 East Ash Street, Columbia, Missouri, 65203; (573) 449-4153. Condolences may be left online for the family at www.ParkerMillard.com.

Posted: 6/24/19