Ida Rolls On

The Southern Sociological Society is one of the oldest sociological associations in the world. The Southern United States is a lot more interesting than the more settled and civilized environs up North, and probably because of that Southerners account for a disproportionate share of American Sociologists. Ida Harper Simpson is one of the greatest sociologists the South ever produced. Born in Alabama, Ida earned her BA and MA from the University of Alabama, before moving to UNC for her PhD. She moved around a bit into employment not befitting her intellect (“I never really thought about that at the time, I suppose if I had, I would have been a lot less happy.”) before landing a slot at Duke. Back then, Duke wasn’t the powerhouse Sociology program it is today, and Ida helped build the department from an undergraduate program to one of the top PhD programs in the nation.  Ida was President of the SSS when I was in grad school, and we all went to Nashville to celebrate the event. The male graduate students (Dave Gay, Chris Ellison, Tom Glass, Dan Clark, Hon Chu Leung, Xioming Chen, Miguel K, me, and several others I’m forgetting) crashed in the presidential suite where we had the official SSS nightly parties (at which, we tended bar). The female graduate students (who shall remain nameless…) took all of the grad student money and stayed 2 to a room. By the third day us guys were sleeping with stinky putrid cheese trays, and occaisionally eating some of it…

That was twenty years ago. At this year’s meetings in Richmond, Ida was rightly awarded the supreme accolade of the SSS, admission into the Roll of Honor. Only fifteen people, including Ida, have been so honored. The panel session for her induction was a magnificent event. Despite being early on the program, it was packed, with many people having come to Richmond simply for Ida’s induction. Ida is doing great, and it was wonderful to see the support from Duke faculty and alumni. Many of my old cohorts were there, Dave Gay, Christine Cox, Diane Everett, Vick Lamb…It was like a reunion!

And, unlike parties sponsored by some lame ass universities in the triangle, the Duke party had free booze! That doesn’t come without cost! At one point during the reception, William H Form called me a bastard and attacked me with his cane!!! For a guy who is 91, he wields a mean stick!! It was great to see that Bill can still dish it out!


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