April 29, 1999
Vol. 18 No. 15

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    James Coleman will be honored with a memorial lecture

    By William Harms
    News Office

    A memorial lecture to celebrate the life and scholarship of James Coleman, the late University Professor in Sociology, will be held at 4 p.m. Wednesday, May 5, in the Social Science Research Building, Room 122.

    The event is sponsored by the Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies, the School’s Center for Social Program Evaluation and the University’s Department of Sociology.

    The talk, “Integrating Numbers and Narratives: Case-centered Analysis at the Social and Biological Science Interface,” will be given by Burton Singer, a leading statistician and professor of demography and public affairs at Princeton University.

    “Singer, much like our former colleague, has the enviable ability among academic researchers to easily quantify and measure complex and important social phenomena,” said James Heckman, the Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and an organizer of the lecture.

    “Singer has devoted a considerable amount of basic research on the transmission of disease and related public health issues. He is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has chaired the National Research Council Committee on National Statistics and the World Health Organization Steering Committee for Social and Economic Research,” Heckman added.

    Robert Michael, Dean of the Harris School and the Eliakim Hastings Moore Distinguished Service Professor, said the lecture will honor the memory of one of the nation’s most distinguished sociologists.

    “Jim’s research has profoundly affected our understanding of social change and collective action theory and has widely influenced the course of education in America,” Michael said.

    “His 1966 report to Congress, known as the Coleman Report, which concluded disadvantaged black children learned better in integrated classes, was widely used to support school busing and became a manual for political and court actions,” Michael said.

    “In 1975, Jim reversed himself, finding in another study that busing encouraged ‘white flight.’ This conclusion generated an enormous uproar among policymakers, civil rights leaders and other critics. His willingness to risk his popularity in pursuit of accuracy was demonstrated again in 1981, when he found that Catholic schools provided a better education than public schools.”

    Coleman, who died in 1995, received many accolades for his work. His 1990 book, Foundations of Social Theory, received the American Sociological Association’s Distinguished Publication Award, and he was elected the association’s president in 1991.

    Singer will deliver an additional workshop titled “Randomness and Irregular Behavior” at 1:30 p.m. May 5 in the Social Science Research Building, Room 401. The workshop will summarize his recent contributions to the definition and operationalization of random series.

    “Random numbers are widely used in science and applied mathematics, and Singer has made fundamental contributions to the literature on generating truly random number sequences,” said Heckman.