Gerhard Lenski, American sociologist, Died at 91

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Gerhard Emmanuel Lenski, Jr. was born on August 13, 1924, and died on December 7, 2015.

He was an American sociologist known for contributions to the sociology of religion, social inequality, and introducing the ecological-evolutionary theory.

Gerhard spent much of his career as a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he served as chair of the Department of Sociology, 1969 to 1972, and as chair of the Division of Social Sciences, 1976-78.

Gerhard was born and raised in Washington, DC, the son of a Lutheran pastor, the grandson of German-born theologian Richard Charles Henry Lenski, and the nephew of children’s author Lois Lenski.

He attended Yale University, where he received a BA degree in 1947, after serving as a cryptographer with the 8th Air Force in England in World War II, and then earned his PhD from Yale in 1950.

Gerhard was awarded a Pre-doctoral Fellowship by the Social Science Research Council, 1949 to 1950, and later a Senior Faculty Fellowship, 1961 to 1962; a Guggenheim Fellowship, 1972 to 1973; and IREX Senior Faculty Exchange Fellowships, for Poland, 1978, and Hungary, 1988.

He served as Vice President of the American Sociological Association, 1969 to 1970, and was nominee for President in 1972.

Gerhard was also President of the Southern Sociological Society, 1977 to 1978 and elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1976.

In 2002, Gerhard was awarded the Career of Distinguished Scholarship Award by the American Sociological Association.

Gerhard writings have been translated into German, Swedish, Spanish, Polish, and Chinese (both mainland and Taiwanese translations).

He married poet Jean Cappelmann (d. 1994) in 1948, and labor economist Ann Blalock in 1996.

Gerhard and Jean Lenski were active in the movements for civil rights and in opposition to the Vietnam War.

His children are Jean, Robert, Katherine, and evolutionary biologist Richard Lenski, and his step-children are Susan, Kathleen, and James.

Gerhard spent much of his retirement in Washington State and passed away at home near Seattle on December 7, 2015, at the age of 91.

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