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Professor Emeritus of Sociology Richard Means Dies

Richard L. Means ’52, professor emeritus of sociology, died on February 15, 2014. He came to K as an undergraduate student in 1948, when he transferred from the University of Toledo. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. At K he won the Hodge Prize in philosophy and was president of the student body. He was also a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He and fellow K graduate, Joyce Allen, married in 1953.

Means earned a bachelor’s degree in divinity from Colgate Rochester Divinity School (1956) and an M.A. and Ph.D. (sociology) from Cornell University (1959 and 1964, respectively). He served as a chaplain at Cornell (1956-59) and was ordained as an Associate Minster of the First Congregational Church (1957). He returned to K in 1961, where he received tenure (1964) and was promoted to full professor (1972). He retired from K in 1993, having served the College for 32 years.

Among the qualities that made him exceptional, wrote his colleague and friend, Dean of the Chapel Robert Dewey, on the occasion of Mean’s 25th service anniversary with the College, were his “command of a discipline, intellectual curiosity beyond that discipline, stimulating conversation, collegial support, a sense of humor, a broad range of interests and an impressive knowledge of each, a passionate concern for the vitality and quality of the College and for the problems confronting society, the nation, and the world.” His research and teaching interests were broad and deep and included the family, criminology, mental health institutions, the sociology of religion, race relations, alcohol and drug abuse, the environment, and social gerontology. Citing the breadth of his colleague’s intellectual interests Dewey likened Means to “a man in a conning tower rotating his periscope across the wide horizon to see and grasp what he finds there.” Means wrote numerous journal articles on various topics in sociology and religion, and he was the author of the book The Ethical Imperative: The Value Crisis in America, which was used in college classes at Grinnell and Carleton, among others.

After he retired from K, Means served as interim minster of the First Congregational Church of Kalamazoo. He then served as interim minster of the First Congregational Church of Coloma, Michigan.

He is survived by Joyce, his wife of 60 years, their three children, three grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews. A memorial service will be held at 2 PM on Thursday, February 20, at First Congregational Church, 129 S. Park Street. Friends and family will have the opportunity to gather for a time of remembrance and fellowship on Friday, February 21, beginning at 3:30 in the Kiva at Friendship Village, 1700 N. Drake Road.

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