John Til (1964)

Professor of Urban Studies and Community Planning, Rutgers University, Camden.

I arrived in Berkeley in 1973 after living most of my life in the Illinois and Tennessee, having previously studied at Swarthmore, North Carolina, and the London School of Economics. I had never seen anything like the fog, the bay, the Free Speech Movement, and the arrests. Within the Department, Nat Glazer proved a careful adviser and I passed three of five required courses by exemption exam before classes began. Later that year, Leo Lowenthal let my skimpy German by for the second language.

I wanted to reform the theory of pluralism, and hung onto as many words as I could in a joint course offered by Kornhauser and Selznick. But as the year wore on, several of my mentors left for other positions, having taken the "wrong" side in the FSM conflict. And several others went  through  massive changes of political and personal life, rendering them of little use as doctoral advisers. I remember one grim summer in Berkeley when I worked on a dissertation proposal to absolutely no avail, finding solace in radio broadcasts of the games of my beloved baseball Giants. Like so many other students, my doctoral work was ultimately redeemed by the ever-solid support and counsel of Bob Blauner.  In 1970, after a year of teaching at Purdue and five years at Swarthmore, I was awarded my Berkeley doctorate.

I went on to build a career in an urban studies department at the Camden campus of Rutgers University, to write or edit nine books (mostly in voluntary action research, which I helped develop as an interdisciplinary field), to edit the major journal in that field for 12 years, and to win a career award from ARNOVA. I use my sociology now in action research on youth as resources, both in the U.S. and in Northern Ireland.

Dissertation Title: 
Becoming Participants: Dynamics of Access Among the Welfare Poor