College of Liberal Arts

Professor Emeritus Norval Glenn, Leading Scholar of Sociology, Dies at 77

Wed, Feb 23, 2011

AUSTIN, Texas — Norval D. Glenn, professor emeritus of sociology, who taught for 47 years at The University of Texas at Austin, died Feb. 15 after a two-year battle with myelodysplastic syndrome, a form of blood cancer. He was 77 years old.

A prominent scholar of family sociology, Glenn wrote extensively on marriage and divorce, aging and the life course, and methods and survey data analysis. In 2008, he co-directed the first nationally representative sample survey of 750 children of divorce, which provided a substantial body of research on the psychological effects of divorce in children and young people.

"The Sociology Department mourns the passing of Norval Glenn," said Christine Williams, professor and chair of the Department of Sociology. "You could not find a person who was more committed to the advancement of social science. To me, he will always represent the core academic values of integrity, research excellence, collegiality and civic engagement. We will miss him dearly."

After earning his bachelor's degree in social science from New Mexico State University, he served in the Army for four years. He then earned a doctor's degree in sociology from The University of Texas at Austin. He taught at Miami University and University of Illinois until 1964. That year he returned to The University of Texas at Austin, where he was an affiliate of the Population Research Center and held the Ashbel Smith Professorship from 1984 until his retirement in 2011. He was also the Stiles Professor in American Studies from 1991 to 2011.

Born in 1933 at the Glenn Ranch in Lea County, New Mexico, Glenn was known for his kind, considerate manner and his steadfast devotion to his students and colleagues.

"Although we anticipated this day would come, losing Norval still stings," said Mark Regnerus, associate professor of sociology and affiliate of the Population Research Center. "In addition to all the professional accolades and acumen, he was a gentle, generous and humble man. His research on the family, which many of us deeply respected, stayed above the fray of politics and personalities. Our department leaned on him often because he was trusted. He collaborated with so many students and scholars, not because he loved seeing his name in print but because the subject matter was so dear to him and their own development a priority for him. For all these reasons, he will be sorely missed."

Throughout his career Glenn received several teaching awards, including an Outstanding Graduate Teacher Award in 1993 and the Silver Spurs Centennial Teaching Fellowship in 2003. He also earned numerous awards for his meticulous research in social science, including the Texas Council on Family Relations 2004 Moore-Bowman Award for outstanding achievement in the field of family relations and the Warren E. Miller Award for Meritorious Service to the Social Sciences from the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research in 2007.

Among his many professional accomplishments, Glenn was editor of Contemporary Sociology from 1978 to 1980 and the Journal of Family Issues from 1985 to 1989. He also served on editorial boards of numerous other academic journals, including Social Science Quarterly, American Sociological Review, Journal of Marriage and the Family, Journal of Family Issues and Social Science Research.

He is survived by his wife, Grace Glenn, and stepson, Erik Schmitt, both of Austin. Plans for a memorial service are pending. Share your memories of Professor Glenn on his memorial page.

The Department of Sociology will celebrate the academic work of Dr. Glenn 4-6 p.m. Friday, March 4, in Burdine Hall 106. Speakers will include sociology professors Christine Williams, Sheldon Ekland-Olson, Mark Regnerus, Debra Umberson, Elizabeth Marquardt, and Robert Hummer. Music will be provided by Mark Warr.

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