Research in Service to Society: The First Fifty Years of the Institute for Research in Social Science at the University of North Carolina

Research in Service to Society: The First Fifty Years of the Institute for Research in Social Science at the University of North Carolina

Research in Service to Society: The First Fifty Years of the Institute for Research in Social Science at the University of North Carolina

Research in Service to Society: The First Fifty Years of the Institute for Research in Social Science at the University of North Carolina

Synopsis

The Institute for Research in Social Science at the University of North Carolina quickly achieved a national reputation for its contribution to pure research, university teaching, and public affairs. From its inception in 1924, it addressed touchy issues such as race relations, industrial inequities, and political inefficiency in the South. Despite worries about academic acceptance and funding, the institute's scholars produced research and publications that are landmarks in American social science.

Originally published in 1980.

Excerpt

On June 30, 1924, the Institute for Research in Social Science was organized at the University of North Carolina. It was the first institute of its kind in the nation, and it was destined for a distinguished career. It stands today as an enduring monument to its founder, the late Howard W. Odum, a remarkable figure in twentieth-century social science. Odum left other legacies to the University, notably the Department of Sociology, the School of Social Work, and Social Forces, but the Institute was probably his favorite because it embodied his commitment to "cooperative research in the social sciences" and his firm belief in the role of research "in service to society."

In the spring of 1975 Elizabeth Fink, assistant director of the Institute, approached us with the proposal that we do something to commemorate its fiftieth anniversary -- something like writing the history of the Institute's first fifty years. Having fully enjoyed the delights of retirement for several years, we were extremely loath to give up our freedom for even a short time. We were inclined to give Miss Fink a firm negative response, but we told her we would like to think about it. That was probably a mistake.

The more we thought about reasons for not getting involved in such a project, the more our consciences pushed us toward involvement. in the first place, we surmised that the Institute had tried and failed to get one or more young historians to undertake the task, and since the golden anniversary year of 1974 had already come and gone we felt that unless we accepted the assignment the occasion might continue to go unmarked. Secondly, we had both come to Chapel Hill in 1924 as research assistants in the newly organized Institute, had been "hooked" on Chapel Hill and the University, and had remained here ever since, so we felt that we were probably as well qualified as anyone to write about the Institute's career. Thirdly, it occurred to us that although we had been married for more than fifty years and had collaborated on just about everything under the sun, we had never written anything together. If we were ever going to remedy this defi-

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