Johns Hopkins Gazette | February 16, 2009
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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University February 16, 2009 | Vol. 38 No. 22
Obituary: John 'Jack' Frederick Kantner, 88, Pioneer in Family Planning Studies

John Kantner in an undated photo

By Tim Parsons
School of Public Health

John "Jack" Frederick Kantner, professor emeritus, died Feb. 3 at the age of 88. Kantner came to Johns Hopkins in 1968 as a professor in the School of Public Health's Department of Population Dynamics, which is now part of the Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health. He served as chair of the department from 1976 to 1985.

During his time at Johns Hopkins, Kantner joined colleague Melvin Zelnik in conducting in 1971 the first national survey of adolescent fertility and contraceptive use. "No one had ever studied the behaviors of young unmarried women before," said Laurie Schwab Zabin, who was a student of Kantner's and is now a professor in Population, Family and Reproductive Health. "The government found their findings to be so surprising that they funded two more surveys. Today, this kind of research is done all the time." Zabin used Kantner and Zelnik's data for her own initial research.

Zabin added, "Jack was a very supportive and engaging person who gave a lot of his life to the support of family planning worldwide."

Kantner's early work was devoted to improving international family planning and reproductive health programs, particularly in developing countries. While working in the field, he aimed to figure out how to make family planning and reproductive health programs of the 1950s and 1960s work and how to encourage health systems to perform better. Beginning in 1957, he spent many years in Southeast Asia, first in Indonesia as an adviser from the University of California, Berkeley, and later working in Pakistan with the Population Council and in India with the Ford Foundation and USAID. While living in Canada in the 1960s, he helped found the University of Western Ontario's first Department of Sociology. Kantner, along with colleagues T.R. Balakrishnan and Jack Allingham, organized the first fertility and reproductive health survey ever undertaken in Canada. The study, conducted in Toronto from 1966 to 1967, resulted in the publication of Fertility and Family Planning in a Canadian Metropolis.

Kantner received his bachelor's degree in sociology from Franklin and Marshall College in 1942 and served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps in Europe during World War II. He earned his doctorate in sociology from the University of Michigan in 1953. He began his career compiling and analyzing international demographic information from Eastern Europe and Russia for the U.S. Bureau of the Census. In addition to Johns Hopkins, Kantner also held academic appointments at the College of William and Mary and the University of Western Ontario. He was president of the Population Association of America in 1982 and wrote several books on population issues. He wrote his latest book with his son Andrew.

Kantner had a lifelong passion for music, according to his family. He played trumpet during his college years with a touring jazz band and later, during World War II, with the U.S. Army Special Services Band. Upon retiring to Bedford, Penn., in 1986, he was active in the Bedford Springs Music Festival, and he served as president of the festival for two years.

Kantner is survived by his wife, the former Jane Boose; his children, Andrew Kantner, Josie Kantner Smith, Chris Kantner and his wife, Cynthia Burger, and Julie Kantner and her husband, David Claffey; and five grandchildren.


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