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Classroom Lecture

Robin M. Williams, Jr. Award


​About Robin M. Williams Jr.

Robin Murphy Williams (1914-2006) was born on October 11, 1914, in Hillsborough, NC, the son of Robin M., Sr. (a farmer), and Mabel (a homemaker). He received his B.S. in 1933 from North Carolina State College; his M.S. in 1935 from N.C. State and the University of North Carolina; his M.A. in 1939 from Harvard University; and his Ph.D. in 1943 from Harvard University. During World War II, he served in the Special Services Division of the US War Department in Washington, D.C., and the European Theater of Operations from 1942 to 1946.

As an Army researcher on the frontlines, he was a contributor to the classic work, The American Soldier. For much of his long and distinguished career at Cornell University (from 1946 to 1985, then emeritus from 1985 to 2003), he was a member of the Sociology Department. He served as chair of that Department from 1956 through 196l and was appointed the Henry Scarborough Professor of Social Science in 1967. After becoming Professor Emeritus in 1985, Williams continued to teach at both Cornell University and the University of California, Irvine. His research fostered understanding of some of the most difficult problems of American society. He devoted much of his career and writing to studies of intergroup tensions, race relations, war and peace, ethnic conflict, and altruism and cooperation.

Dr. Williams was a Past-President of the American Sociological Association, Past-President of the Eastern Sociological Association, Founding Editor of Sociological Forum, and the Co-Chair of the Committee on the Status of Black Americans. Dr. Williams’ many awards and honors include the Commonwealth Award for Distinguished Service, the American Sociological Association’s Career of Distinguished Scholarship Award, and the Robin M. Williams, Jr. Distinguished Lectureship Award established by the Eastern Sociological Association.

His best-known works include The American Soldier (Vols. 1-11, 1949); Schools in Transition (1954); and What College Students Think (1960); The Reduction of Intergroup Tensions (1947); Strangers Next Door (1964), American Society: A Sociological Interpretation (1st edition, 1951; 2nd edition, 1960; 3rd edition, 1970); Mutual Accommodation: Ethnic Conflict and Cooperation (1977); and most recently, The Wars Within: Peoples and States in Conflict (2003). He was also a co-editor of A Common Destiny: Blacks and American Society (1989). He was the author as well of some hundred and fifty articles, monographs, and chapters in edited volumes.

CURRENT LECTURER (2023-24): Claire Decoteau, University of Chicago at Illinois

Claire Laurier Decoteau received her PhD in Sociology from the University of Michigan (2008). Broadly, her research focuses on the social construction of health and disease, the politics of knowledge production, and peoples’ grounded experiences with healing and health care systems. Decoteau has received numerous awards for her scholarship and teaching. In 2022, she was awarded the Lewis A. Coser Award for Theoretical Agenda-Setting from the Theory Section of the American Sociological Association. She has also received the Junior Theorist Award, the Robert K. Merton Prize, the Star Nelkin Award and the American Sociological Association’s Dissertation Award. Decoteau has also received two awards for excellence in teaching from UIC, as well as the 2018 Graduate Mentoring award. Her areas of interest include: Social Theory, Cultural Sociology, Sociology of Health and Medicine, Sociology of Knowledge, Sociology of the Body, Globalization, Gender/Sexuality, Race/Ethnicity, and Ethnography

As part of the Society's attempt to enhance the sharing of ideas, one of our colleagues will be invited to spend time and give lectures on two campuses within the Society's jurisdiction during their year as the Williams Lecturer. The ESS Executive Office will provide transportation and honoraria: the host institution will take care of local arrangements, including room and board. The individual chosen for the Lectureship will receive an honorarium and will present two lectures on campuses in the ESS region during the terms of his or her appointment. (These campuses will be selected on a competitive basis.)

To apply for Dr. Claire Decoteau  to speak at your institution, please follow these guidelines:
In no more than 1 page (500 words), please let us know: 1) why Dr. Decoteau  is a good fit for speaking on your campus and what contributions the Williams lectureship will make to your community; 2) how the ESS Robin M. Williams, Jr. Distinguished Lecture by Dr. Decoteau  would be promoted if your campus is selected. The response to these questions should be a short statement (bullet points are fine). Deadline December 1, 2023.
Submit to: Simon Cheng, ESS Vice President:
Please send nominations (self-nominations welcome) in a letter detailing the reasons for the nomination along with no more than two supporting letters by December 15, 2023, to the Robin M. Williams, Jr., Lectureship Committee Chair:
Daniel Laurison,, ESS Vice President-Elect
Committee Members:
Derek Hyra, American University, ESS President-Elect
Robin M. Williams, Jr. Distinguished Lecturers 1993-2023


1993-1994 Caroline Hodges Persell

1994-1995 Charles V. Willie

1995-1996 Paul DiMaggio

1996-1997 Judith Lorber

1997-1998 Shulamit Reinharz

1998-1999 Cheryl Townsend Gilkes

1999-2000 Elijah Anderson

2000-2001 Myra Marx Ferree

2001-2002 Bonnie Thornton Dill

 2002-2003 Michael Kimmel

2003-2004 Elizabeth Higginbotham

2004-2005 Jack Levin

2005-2006 Vincent Parillo

2006-2007 Michèle Lamont

2007-2008 Margaret Andersen

2008-2009 William Kornblum

2009-2010 Naomi Gerstel

2010-2011 Mark D. Jacobs

2011-2012 Sudhir Venkatesh

2012-2013 George Ritzer

2013-2014 Karen Cerulo

2014-2015 Mary Waters

2015-2016 Peter I. Rose

2016-2017 Kathleen Blee

2017-2018 Grace Kao

2018-2019 Mignon Moore

2019-2020 Ruha Benjamin

2020-2021 Zine Magubane

2021-2022 Anthony Ryan Hatch

2022-2023 Daniel Cook

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