Dr. Herman J. Loether, emeritus professor and founding faculty member of the sociology department at California State University, Dominguez Hills, died of cancer on March 25. During his 30 years at the university, Loether established the Social Systems Research Center (now known as the Urban Community Research Center) and is the only CSU faculty member to be honored as a CSU Outstanding Professor Award nominee at two different campuses; at CSU Los Angeles in 1965, and at CSU Dominguez Hills in 1973 and 1984.
Upon arriving at CSU Dominguez Hills in 1967, Loether established the campus’s Alpha Kappa Delta (AKD) chapter. He had served as advisor for the AKD chapter at CSU Los Angeles, and was also president for the international organization from 1974 to 1976. After his retirement in 1997, he remained connected to CSU Dominguez Hills as a contributor to the sociology department and an active member of the Emeritus Faculty Association.
Fumiko Hosokawa, professor of sociology, says that during her visit to her former colleague in February, Loether was, despite his illness, “lucid and excited about sociology.”
“Herman was the last of our distinguished sociologists who followed tradition to the fullest,” says Hosokawa. “Highly respected by both students and faculty for his integrity, academic excellence, and dedication to his craft, [he represented] the best in solid sociology research and teaching. Herman made Alpha Kappa Delta, our sociology honors society, a major part of our department [and] kept up the ceremonial tradition of honoring our students on a grand scale.”
Pete Van Hamersveld (Class of ’92, M.A., sociology), is the associate director of Institutional Research, Assessment, and Planning at CSU Dominguez Hills. He says that his former professor “was always there for his students and they expressed a high admiration for him.”
“Herman Loether was a great teacher and a very kind man,” says Van Hamersveld. “He was highly respected for his insistence on applying very orthodox approaches to the use and interpretation of statistics. His long teaching career has had a profound influence on many students, and I’m sure that I can speak for many in saying that I feel privileged that I was one of them.”
Dr. William Blischke, emeritus professor of sociology, says that his former colleague was “an important mentor in teaching me how to teach” and says that the Social Systems Research Center under Loether’s direction became a model for sociology research institutes the world over.
“One of the things that the Center did was create a student satisfaction survey – SNAPS – the Student Needs and Priorities Survey,” recalls Blischke. “It was used in all of the CSUs for a number of years, and administered through the Chancellor’s Office from here. The Center also partnered with community agencies that hired students to do studies on their clients.”
Herman J. Loether was born in Pittsburgh on Feb. 27, 1930. He graduated from Los Angeles City College with an associate of arts degree, then went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in sociology from CSU Los Angeles, where he graduated magna cum laude. He achieved both his master’s degree and doctorate in sociology at the University of Washington before doing his post-doctorate research and teaching at UCLA. He went on to teach at CSULA for ten years before beginning his career at CSU Dominguez Hills.
His books include “Descriptive and Inferential Statistics: An Introduction” (with Donald G. McTavish), which was published in its 4th edition in 1993; “Problems of Aging: Sociological and Social Psychological Perspectives,” published in 1975; and “The Social Impacts of Infectious Disease in England, 1600 to 1900,” published in 2000. He also co-authored McTavish’s 1999 book, “Social Research.”
Loether is survived by his wife, Louise, and son Chris, who is an anthropology professor at the University of Idaho. A memorial is scheduled on May 16 at 11 a.m. at St. John Fisher Catholic Church, located at 5448 Crest Road, Rancho Palos Verdes. Dr. Blischke encourages the sharing of remembrances the Loether family; to do so, a virtual guest book has been created.
In lieu of flowers, the family encourages donations to the Loether Memorial Social Research Scholarship to be established at CSU Dominguez Hills in his honor. Please contact the Office of Development at (310) 243-2182 for more information.