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Interested in "Consuming"

What a surprise when I showed my August/01 copy of the magazine to my husband, thinking he might be interested in the advertising article ("Consuming Interests")! For many years he was a well-known illustrator in Chicago, and for the last 25 years or so he has had a successful career executing fine art for serious collectors (among his commissions are two paintings for George Bush and one for Ronald Reagan-one of Bush's and the Reagan painting hang in their respective libraries).

Looking through the article, he discovered two of his illustrations, the woman and the man beside a sink/dishwasher. Needless to say, his current work is of a different nature and quality. Thank you for making my day!

Marjorie Bivins Hopper, AB'43, AM'62
Sarasota, Florida

Congratulations on your article on W. Lloyd Warner and his Social Research, Inc. staff. I was a grad student researcher under Lloyd, who one day announced to our advanced Cultural Anthropology class that he'd lost the first set of vitae turned in by those interested in working with him on the Sears research and needed another set to select someone to do the study. I was selected, perhaps because I had carried Volume 2 of his Yankee City series around the world on Army Air Force assignments and had had it leather bound in Agra, India. Another factor may have been my working at Carl R. Rogers's U of C Counseling Center, where we emphasized Rogerian nondirective techniques.

Burleigh (pronounced "Bully" in Burleigh's Texas drawl) supervised the project. After turning in the report, I asked Lloyd if I could anonomize the findings, add appropriate scholarly references, and submit it as a master's thesis. Lloyd helped me with the additional material and also served as my thesis advisor. Later, he was my dissertation advisor on a Teachers Union study, which became a part of the Industrial Relations Center's white-collar unionism series and was published in book form.

As a mentor, Lloyd was outstanding. After passing my Ph.D. prelims, I was offered a position with a major Chicago psychological firm at a starting salary larger than the starting rate for U of C instructors. Lloyd said, "Bob, I have seen so many Ph.D. candidates get to where you are and fail to complete their degree work for one reason or another that I'm advising you to continue starving under the G.I. Bill and finish up here. I'm sure the Chicago firm will do all they can to help you on your dissertation, but if a Los Angeles client needs your services, they will have to send you out there, dissertation or no dissertation." I took his advice. After four years at Chicago and 35 years of B-school teaching as a full professor in two major universities, my feeling is that Lloyd Warner was truly one of the great ones.

Robert F. Pearse, AM'47, PhD'50
Rochester, New York

John Easton's "Consuming Interests" includes a quote from Leo J. Shapiro, AB'42, PhD'56, a contemporary of many involved in Social Research, Inc., as well as a business competitor of this influential market research firm. Not mentioned is his early advocacy of punch-card voting, much in the news since the 2000 Presidential elections.

I remember Leo arguing in the early '50s that voting needed to require some positive action by the voter-something more vigorous than merely marking a paper ballot. His theoretical conception was sound social science of the kind exercised by SRI; the failure of punch-card voting was one of execution. States simply weren't willing to spend enough money to buy equipment necessary to use this delicate device, the "hollerith" (or by World War II, "IBM") card effectively.

Those of us old enough to have worked with punch cards well remember why an organization's "computer room" was air-conditioned year-round no matter how hot or cold the rest of the work space. The first lesson in using the '50s computer was: Handle punch cards gently. Leo did not anticipate the rough handling these cards would receive from voters, poll workers, and the weather in various climates, in elections occurring in all seasons. It's not surprising that they failed to record voters' intentions correctly 5 to 10 percent of the time, no matter where used-Illinois, Florida, and other states.

True, the punch-card ballot was "abstract," in that the voter could not see for whom he had voted as with a paper ballot or voting machine. It's also true that the punch card didn't give voters a "rush" from the act of penetrating a thin piece of cardboard with a metal "needle"-another flaw of execution. But one cannot blame the punch-card system for the decline in voting participation after 1950; the cause must be sought in other trends, e.g., rapid job turnover that led citizens of most income levels to move around the country too rapidly to engender loyalty to and interest in local affairs and government.

The recent report from the ad hoc Presidential Commission on Voting Procedures did not, to my knowledge, include any social science analysis of the personal and social meaning of the "vote." While the proposed procedures may increase the count's accuracy, I predict that we will continue to see a decline in the percentage of citizens who actually vote, because the commission failed to ask the right question, to which Leo Shapiro offered a constructive answer a half-century ago: Why do people vote?

These words are another way of praising the social science thinking that flowed from Chicago in an ever-stronger stream after World War I. A traditionalist at heart, I'm willing to give credit for its genesis to John Dewey (who was at the University in the 1890s) and our first president, William Rainy Harper, and his concern for factual research. Easton praised Lloyd Warner for stimulating and conducting much of the social research that led to SRI; some others added to the total atmosphere responsible for SRI's success: Ernest W. Burgess, PhD'13, and Charles Merriam, SB'22, JD'25, in the '20s; Louis Wirth and Herbert Blumer, PhD'28, and William F. Whyte, PhD'43, from the '30s to the '40s; plus many whose names I've forgotten…all helped lay the ground work on which Warner and his SRI colleagues built.

On the other side of the transaction, an examination of any sphere of human endeavor after about 1930-education, health care, law, industrial relations and business management, social service-would demonstrate the debt of mankind to the University of Chicago approach to studying human problems.

Leonard S. Stein, AM'49, PhD'62
Evanston, Illinois



  OCTOBER 2001

  > > Volume 94, Number 1

  > >
Collective efforts
  > >
News you can abuse
  > >
The collecting mania

  > > Class News

  > > Books
  > > Deaths

  > > Chicago Journal

  > > Chicago Report

  > > Investigations



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