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Thomas E. Dow Jr.

Professor Emeritus of Sociology


It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of Thomas E. Dow, Jr., Professor Emeritus of Sociology. Dr. Dow earned his B.A. from Hunter College and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. He joined the Purchase College faculty in 1971 as one of the founding members of the Division of Social Sciences. Over almost three decades he helped to build the sociology program, hiring and mentoring newer faculty while teaching generations of students before retiring in 1998.

A pioneer in disability studies, Thomas Dow did groundbreaking research on the ways families and institutions treated and mistreated people with disabilities. Whereas many sociologists of his era focused on so-called “developed” societies of Europe and North America, Dr. Dow turned his attention to the newly independent nations of Africa, which were emerging from colonial rule just as he was starting out in the academic profession. With grants from the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, he carried out research in Kenya, Sierra Leone, and Zimbabwe that made important contributions to the study of demography, especially death rates and population growth, and the sociology of leadership in anti-colonial struggles and post-colonial governance. His publications include theoretical reconsiderations of Max Weber’s concept of charismatic leadership and a co-authored study of imperial rule in Ethiopia in the journal Genève-Afrique.

Tom’s colleagues remember him as kind, dependable, and deeply respectful of political and philosophical differences. As a senior faculty member, he helped to shepherd his division, and Purchase College, through good times and bad. His long-term commitment and manifold contributions as a teacher, scholar, and citizen made our institution stronger and leave a lasting legacy from which we can all take inspiration.