Sociology Prof. Charlie Moskos dies at age 74

Nomaan Merchant

Prof. Charlie Moskos, a nationally renowned military sociologist and popular NU professor, died Saturday morning at his Santa Monica, Calif., home after a long battle with prostate cancer, his wife Ilca said today. He was 74.

Moskos, a Princeton University and University of California-Los Angeles alumnus, came to Evanston in 1966 from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

He retired in 2003 but continued to teach each fall, taking 2006 off for health reasons but returning to teach two classes during Fall Quarter this year.

“He was very happy to come back,” Ilca Moskos said. “He enjoyed students, he enjoyed teaching….When we left in December, he was all right. When we returned, the condition worsened.”

Moskos is best known nationally as the author of President Bill Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding gays in the military. In addition to his teaching duties, Moskos consulted military leaders around the world and wrote articles in many publications on military issues.

“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 Petraeus, the commanding general of forces in Iraq, in a statement.

At Northwestern, his 600-person Introduction to Sociology classes were immensely popular among students.

“He once commented that he’s probably taught introductory sociology to more students than anybody in America,” said Bernard Beck, a sociology professor emeritus and friend of Moskos. “He kept teaching it over and over again to such huge crowds.”

Despite the large class sizes, Moskos still made a point to interact with the students. At the end of Introduction to Sociology lectures during Fall 2007, Moskos would sit and talk to students after class, said Mikaela Rabinowitz, one of the TAs.

Though professors often prefer to teach graduate students, a position with more prestige and the chance to make a greater impression, Moskos loved teaching undergraduates, Beck said.

“He definitely loved teaching, particularly undergrads, which is not universal among professors,” said Rabinowitz, a sociology graduate student.

One of his students was his son Andrew, 39, who attended one of Moskos’ lectures last fall with his mother. Moskos is also survived by another son, Peter, 36.

“It’s probably harder on the children than it is on me,” Ilca Moskos said. “My husband had a happy life; we had a wonderful marriage.”

In a statement, Provost Dan Linzer called Moskos’ teaching “legendary.”

“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,” Linzer said.

Moskos’ direct and clear way of teaching and personal demeanor left him with many fans.

“Charlie was always smiling and friendly,” Beck said. “He was the world’s friend.”

A wake will be held on Thursday from 4-9 p.m. at the Smith-Corcoran Funeral Home, 6150 N. Cicero Ave. in Chicago. The funeral will take place Friday at 10 a.m. at St. Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Church, 5649 N. Sheridan Road.

A memorial service at NU will be held in the coming days, University President Henry Bienen said in a statement.

In lieu of flowers, the Moskos family has requested donations be sent to the Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center, 801 W. Adams St., Chicago, Ill., 60607.

Emily Glazer contributed reporting.