William Form

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William Form is gone. Sociology has lost one of its most important figures, someone who forged a research legacy that is unmatched and did so in circumstances that few understand. There simply are not scholars like him around today, and it is depressing. I wish I had known him better and had had more time to discuss scholarship with him.

I first met Bill when he was tagging along with Joan Huber to do a plenary at the SSS in Nashville in 1988. Ken Land introduced me. I was struck that he seemed interested in my research even though I had him pegged as being antagonistic to cultural stuff. I next met him when I interviewed at Ohio State in 1990, and he was gracious and hands off, saying at the outset that he had nothing to do with who would be hired (which would not be me). Over the years, we were intermittently engaged, often having dinner or drinks at various sociological excursions.

Then I fell from grace, for some. For family reasons, I resigned a position at Vanderbilt and came to my current humble abode. Bill cornered me at one meeting or another right after I came to SIU, and we had a long discussion about scholarship, values, work, and what it really meant. I never knew how much he had been through. When I returned from the meetings he sent me a copy of his book, Work and Academic Politics: A Journeyman’s Story, which everyone should buy and read. It’s his story, and it is humbling for all. Bill Form had it hard. He wasn’t some pre-boomer who made Full Professor from nothing. He helped forge modern sociology, and he did it while teaching a horrific load of classes and working on numerous research projects–often without compensation. He moved from minor colleges and eventually into the elite, working his ass off and paying some of the prices we pay.

It meant more than almost anything that Bill Form acknowledged me, and I read his autobiography with many tears in my eyes. Sometimes, you know that there are people like you. It is hard to convey. I have often thought about his struggles when I’ve felt put upon, overworked, or under appreciated. Bill implored me to send his story on to others. I did ask my humble library to order it. But I can’t give up my own copy. It’s too important to me. I love his life, and I’m so privileged that he bothered to connect me to his own story of the struggles of academics.

And, he hit me with his cane once….I’ll miss him a lot. He can never be replaced.

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One Response to “William Form”

  1. krippendorf Says:

    I never met Bill Form, although I loved his work with Joan Huber. I’m sorry for your loss, Darren, and for the discipline’s.

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