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Charles Moskos, Leading Military Sociologist, Dies at 74

Advised U.S. military, foreign governments and other institutions on the major issues

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June 2, 2008 | by Pat Vaughan Tremmel

Audio: Moskos talks to Northwestern about national service

EVANSTON, Ill. — Northwestern University's Charles Moskos, the nation's leading sociologist with expertise on the U.S. military, died May 31 at his home in Santa Monica, Calif., after a long struggle with cancer.

A native of Chicago, Mr. Moskos, 74, retired in 2003 as professor emeritus of sociology at Northwestern. Known internationally for his warmth and wit as well as his scholarship, he was popular with fellow academics, generals, policymakers and students alike.

He advised the U.S. military and government, foreign governments and numerous other institutions on the major issues facing the military. He is well known as the author of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" law that governs the conduct of gay service members. For more than 40 years, his research took him to numerous combat units of major military deployments, and he lectured all over the world.

Northwestern University President Henry S. Bienen said, "Charlie was a great teacher, scholar, public policy influential and friend. He was great for Northwestern and will be missed. The University will honor him at a memorial service in the near future."

His public policy work is recognized at the highest levels of the military.

"Charles was a remarkable man, a renowned scholar who repeatedly offered thoughtful advice and thought-provoking ideas on the challenges with which we have grappled over the years," said Gen. David H. Petraeus, commanding general, multi-national force - Iraq.

At Northwestern, Mr. Moskos, for many years, taught the largest and most popular introduction to sociology class.

"Through his teaching of introductory sociology and military sociology, Charlie reached and inspired more students than any other faculty member in the past several decades," said Northwestern Provost Daniel Linzer. "His teaching was legendary."

He was as at ease with the troops as he was with the military leaders and federal officials who sought his advice. He played a leading role in promoting national youth service and wrote a book titled "A Call to Civic Service: National Service for Country and Community" He shared his expertise on such issues frequently in testimony before the Senate and House Armed Services Committees.

Mr. Moskos' career path was inspired by a much humbler experience with the military. 

After receiving a bachelor's degree in sociology from Princeton University, he was drafted in 1956 in the U.S. Army, where he served two years. He then earned master's and Ph.D. degrees from the University of California at Los Angeles. In 1966, he joined Northwestern after two years on the University of Michigan faculty.

The combat units that he visited for his research were in Vietnam (1965 and 1967), Dominican Republic (1966), Honduras (1984), Panama (1990), Saudi Arabia (1991), Somalia (1993), Haiti (1994), Macedonia (1995), Bosnia (1996 and 1998), Kosovo (2000) and Iraq (2003).

He is the author of a number of scholarly articles, and his books include "The Military -- More Than Just a Job?," "Black Leadership and Racial Integration the Army Way" and "The Postmodern Military." His work has been translated into 21 languages.

He also wrote for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Atlantic Monthly and Foreign Affairs; and he was often interviewed by national media for his opinions on military issues.

Mr. Moskos' achievements earned him the Distinguished Service Award, the U.S. Army's highest decoration for a civilian. He was designated an Honored Patriot by the Selective Service System, and his scholarly success earned him membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation's most prestigious academic awards.

He also received the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Civilian Service in Desert Shield/Desert Storm, the Army Medal for Distinguished Civilian Service and medals from the governments of The Netherlands and France.

Mr. Moskos, who served as Harold H. and Virginia Anderson Chair in Northwestern's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences from 1996 to 1999, was awarded honorary doctor of humane letters degrees from Towson University and Norwich University.

The foreign countries where Mr. Moskos lectured include Canada, Ecuador, Israel, The Netherlands, Spain, Czech Republic, England, Germany and South Africa. His research, which included peacekeeping missions and international military cooperation, was funded by the Ford Foundation, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Rockefeller Foundation, Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences and John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, among others. He visited 80 countries altogether.

He served as a member of the President's Commission of Assignment of Women in the Military, senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, the advisory board of Veterans for America and member of the Society of the First Infantry Division.

Mr. Moskos, who took great pride in his Greek-American heritage, also devoted research to Greek-American studies, including a book titled "Greek Americans: Struggle and Success." He served as chair of the Theodore Saloutos Memorial Foundation for Greek-American Studies, Immigration History Research Center since 1983, member of the board of directors of the United Hellenic American Congress since 1993 and also served on the Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Commission on a Theological Agenda for the Third Millennium.

He is survived by his wife of 41 years, Ilca; son Andrew, daughter-in-law Saskia and grandchildren Finn and Aidan, of Amsterdam, the Netherlands; and son Peter and daughter-in-law Zora O'Neill, of Astoria, N.Y.

The wake will be from 4 to 9 p.m. Thursday, June 5, at the Smith-Corcoran Funeral Home, 6150 N. Cicero Ave. (south of Devon), in Chicago. The funeral will begin at 10 a.m. Friday, June 6, at St. Andrew's Greek Orthodox Church, 5649 N. Sheridan Road (at Hollywood and Outer Drive). The interment following the church service is at Elmwood Cemetery, River Grove, Ill.

Please do not send flowers, according to the family's wishes. The family requests that donations be sent to the Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center, 801 W. Adams St., Chicago 60607

OTHER TRIBUTES FOR CHARLES MOSKOS

General Wesley Clark: "For those of us who served, there was simply no one else like him. He was analytical but personal, dispassionate but caring, and above all, a respected, thoughtful friend to so many of us in the military. I first met him at a conference at West Point in the early 1970's, read almost everything he wrote, and I continued to see him periodically and correspond occasionally for over three decades. He truly had an impact on the military, and he gave many of us the reassurance that someone out there knew us, cared about us and could help see our best interests as a nation and a military were looked after."

Interim Dean of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences Aldon Morris: "Charlie excelled as a scholar, teacher, mentor and in the quality of his friendships. While I treasure all Charlie's gifts, it is his friendship and loyalty I will miss most."

Major General (ret.) Jack C. Wheeler: "The nation has lost a treasure and an intellectual voice of reason. I had the wonderful honor of taking a course under him at the U.S. Army War College in 1978 and 1979 and later worked with him on military personnel policy. What insights and devotion to this country Charlie possessed, and so many of the tenets of his philosophy remain in tact today – and will remain for decades to come."

Northwestern Professor Emeritus of Sociology Allan Schnaiberg: "Charlie once told me, 'I don't write my books for other sociologists, I write them for the intelligent public out there.' I think that is why he had both an influence on the broader world of military policy, and why so many undergraduates were able to get a sense of the power of sociological thought from him."

Joseph J. Collins, Ph.D. Arial Professor, National War College: "Charlie was a most impressive academic, but he was also a man of public policy, someone who cared deeply for his country and its soldiers. He was a great man and a great educator, as brilliant as he was humble and open to the opinions of others."

Mary Pattillo, Northwestern Professor of Sociology and African American Studies: "Charlie had the kind of career at Northwestern that legends are made of, except in his case the stories of having taught tens of thousands of students with that perfect mix of rhythm and rigor are no exaggeration! The sociology department will miss him dearly. He is irreplaceable."

Tom Cook, Northwestern professor of sociology, psychology, and education and social policy; faculty fellow, Institute for Policy Research; and Joan and Sarepta Harrison Professor in Ethics and Justice: "Charlie was always fun and wanted to have fun; he always stuck with the big ideas, not bothering with the minutiae on which our academic tribe depends."

Irving Louis Horowitz, Hannah Arendt Distinguished University Professor Emeritus, Department of Sociology, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey: "As a professional colleague of peerless intelligence, no less than a personal friend of fearless loyalty, there simply is not one better."

Wendell Bell, Professor Emeritus, Department of Sociology, Yale University: "Charlie was a hard-working, ever curious, energetic person, dedicated to making a difference in the world -- which he did, through his teaching, his research, his advising and consulting, and, perhaps, most of all through the kind of person he was." 

Professor Bernard Boene, formerly of Ecole Speciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr, France: "I fondly remember the help he so generously gave to the beginner in military sociology that I was in the early 80's. He will be remembered for his expansive good humor and wit as well as for his lasting intellectual achievements and influence. I will personally miss the postcards he was in the habit of sending his friends to signal his presence in Greece, Russia, Korea and other unlikely places (military training grounds or theatres of operations) the world over." 

Jane Mansbridge, Adams Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Values, and Christopher Jencks, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy, Harvard University: "Charlie was a wonderful part of our life at Northwestern. We admired him greatly – from his deep understanding of the kind of community created in the armed forces to his wise and funny analysis of the differences among his Greek relatives. We remember many insights of his and also the warm human being that he was." 

Director of Northwestern's Institute for Policy Research Fay Lomax Cook: "Charlie was a life force – an amazing life force. Ever since I have known him, he has been full of vibrancy, fun and joy. Conversations were always more interesting when Charlie was part of them. His level of knowledge never ceased to amaze me."

Charles Ragin, professor of sociology and political science, University of Arizona: "Charlie was a nonstop sociologist. We once traveled downtown together to appear on a talk radio show. Charlie conducted several interviews, on the fly, as we made our way to the radio station – with cab drivers, attendants, front desk clerks, anyone who would share an opinion, idea or insight. He was amazing."

Howard S. Becker, former Northwestern faculty member: "Charlie Moskos was a terrific sociologist, a loyal and wonderful friend, a great colleague. Everybody knows all those things and has testified to them. He was also, something he only tried once, a great department chair: honest, fair, unflappable, and inventive. Who else would have suggested that the department send a few graduate students, who would profit from it when they looked for a job, to charm school. We didn't do it, more's the pity. He left every organization he came in contact with better than it had been before. I miss him and always will."

Christopher Winship, Diker-Tishman Professor of Sociology, Harvard University: "Charlie was a superb teacher — his classes were always huge — a wonderful friend to all who knew him, a devoted husband, a beloved dad, a person with an ever present intellectual curiosity, a proud American who rejoiced in his Greek heritage. There are a zillion things you could say about Charlie. He really was one of those bigger than life guys — a real presence. Just thinking about him, I can hear his inquisitive voice always wanting to know about every one else's kids and family. I can picture his ever expressive face as if I saw him yesterday. He will be very much missed."

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