Johns Hopkins Gazette: April 3, 1995

Obituary: Coleman Changed Way Nation Educated Disadvantaged Youth

     James Coleman returned to Hopkins in mid-October to be
honored by the Sociology Department, which he founded in 1959.
Last week, he died of prostate cancer at the University of
Chicago Hospital. He was 68.

     At a ceremony dedicating in his name the department's
seminar room in Mergenthaler Hall on Oct. 14, Dr. Coleman
reflected on his Hopkins years. He told the faculty, students and
friends crowded around him that Hopkins "grew him up"
intellectually. But he already was considered among the country's
leading thinkers in sociology when he arrived here.

     On the strength of his reputation in education reform, Dr.
Coleman convinced the Ford Foundation to make a $750,000 grant to
establish a graduate program in what was then the Department of
Social Relations. His idea was not to turn out well-rounded
sociologists: "There were already too many of them," he said at
the dedication. Instead, he wanted sociologists with "sharp
edges," and he recruited students whose work was just off the
beaten path.

     Although the narrowly focused department started with only
three faculty members and four students, it grew substantially
during his 14 years at Hopkins, eight of which as department
chairman. In 1974, one year after Dr. Coleman departed for the
University of Chicago, an independent evaluation named the
department one of the top programs in post-World War II academia.

     During those years, Dr. Coleman himself made significant
contributions to education reform. In 1961 he published the
groundbreaking The Adolescent Society, and in 1965 culminated
several years of research with The Coleman Report, a massive
federally funded study of educational opportunities for
minorities. Among his lasting conclusions was that disadvantaged
black children learned better in integrated classes, a position
widely used to support busing to achieve racial balance in public

     In his influential career, Dr. Coleman wrote more than 30
books and hundreds of articles.

     In 1966 Dr. Coleman was instrumental in establishing the
Hopkins Center for Social Organization of Schools, now among the
country's leading research and development institutions based on
his findings. It continues to emphasize education reform for
socially and economically disadvantaged youth.

     "Jim not only gave us our start," CSOS director James
McPartland said at the dedication, "but he contributed its
lasting focus on issues of access to equal education
opportunities and reform based on scientific research."

     "He was always thinking of new ways to think," CSOS research
scientist Joyce Epstein told The Sun.

     Dr. Coleman was born in Bedford, Ind. He earned his
bachelor's degree in chemical engineering in 1949 from Purdue
University and a doctorate in sociology from Columbia University
in 1955. He is survived by his wife, four sons and a

     Dr. Coleman was buried on March 28 in private services in
Hopkinsville, Ky. A memorial service is planned for May at the
University of Chicago. 

     In addition, a memorial fund has been set up in honor of Dr.
Coleman. Mail contributions to: the James S. Coleman Memorial
Fund, The University of Chicago, 5801 South Ellis Ave., Suite
601, Chicago, Ill. 60637.

A memorial service for researcher James Bell will be held Friday, 
April 7, at 4 p.m. in the Great Hall in Levering Hall on the Homewood 
campus. A note in this issue of the Gazette indicated that the service
would be for James S. Coleman, founder of the Department of Sociology.
That is incorrect. The memorial service is for researcher James Bell.

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