Moskos to be honored in tribute

Christina Salter

There are the dreaded classes that students regret waking up for.

Then there are the legendary classes that students regret missing.

For many years, Prof. Charles Moskos’ Introduction to Sociology class was known as a “must-take” class at Northwestern. The 600-person class consistently packed Ryan Auditorium three days a week every Fall Quarter.

“I feel like Prof. Moskos is in the canon of the professors you have to take a class with,” said Communication sophomore Julia Weed, who took Moskos’ last Intro to Sociology class in Fall 2007.

Moskos died on May 31 at age 74 after a long battle with prostate cancer. A tribute will be held today at 4 p.m. in Alice Millar Chapel, where family, friends and colleagues will share memories of the popular professor and nationally-renowned military sociologist.

Moskos began teaching at NU in 1966 and retired in 2003. He was well-known as the author of President Bill Clinton’s controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy concerning gays in the military. Moskos continued to teach two classes each Fall Quarter when his health permitted.

His death left many wondering what would happen to the well-known lecture.

“Those are incredibly big shoes to fill,” said Prof. Karrie Snyder, who found out last spring that she would teach the Fall 2008 class.

Snyder, Weinberg ’94, took Moskos’ Intro to Sociology class in the early 1990s. She remembered his conversational lectures and said it was one of her favorite sociology classes. Snyder, who began teaching at NU last year, said she never had the chance to get to know Moskos professionally but heard a lot about his legacy.

“If it’s a tenth as entertaining and interesting as his class, I would be happy,” she said.

Things have changed. The chalkboard that Moskos used to record the results of frequent class surveys now sits on the side of the stage, replaced by a PowerPoint presentation. The once-filled auditorium now has 339 students. And many freshmen in the class had never heard of Moskos nor were they aware of the class’s previous popularity.

“It’s still a good class,” said Weinberg sophomore Lauren Maddox. “I just think it’s hard for (Snyder) to live up to him.”

Snyder said her curriculum for the course covers the same basics of a typical introductory course. She taught the course for the first time at NU last Spring Quarter.

The new professor needs to develop her own character, Weed said. She described Moskos’ personality as the “universal grandfather” of the sociology department. “He would always remember every story people had come up to him with,” she said. “He was so genuinely interested in it.”

Weed registered for the class as a freshman on the advice of a peer adviser and quickly came to appreciate Moskos’ dedication and “charmingly retro” nature, she said.

The theatre major often arrived early to class and chatted with Moskos while he prepared for lecture. She also met Moskos’ son, Andrew, when he made a surprise visit to class one day.

“Everyone who took the class always spoke about him so affectionately, even if they never talked to him,” Weed said.

Assistant to the President Eugene Lowe worked with the Moskos family to set the date of the memorial service. Moskos’ wife, Ilca, and son Peter will be attending. Lowe described Moskos as an outstanding professor who was well-liked by his students. The memorial service was postponed until Fall Quarter so that more students could have the chance to attend, he said.

Lowe, who worked with Moskos since 1995, remembers him as a professor who was deeply involved in field work but still loved the opportunity to interact with his students.

“He was absolutely devoted to undergraduate teaching,” Lowe said.

[email protected]