James Wood (1964)

Professor of Sociology, San Diego State University

James L. Wood A beloved husband, father, friend and mentor for many, died April 18, 2007 at the age of 65 with family at his side. Jim grew up in a vibrant, diverse North Oakland neighborhood where he attended Santa Fe Grammar School, Woodrow Wilson Junior High and Oakland Tech High. He had many fond memories of participating in Oakland police athletic leagues, swimming at Forest Pool, attending 49er and Cal football games with his father and brother, and spending summers at his family's cabin in Boulder Creek. He received his B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, with a major in sociology. He attended Berkeley throughout the '60s which influenced his decision to specialize in issues related to social movements and political sociology. He formed many lifelong friendships during his time on campus. Upon completion of his doctoral studies he taught two years at UC Riverside before moving to San Diego State University, where he remained for 30 years. He was regarded as a very supportive teacher and mentor by his students, and encouraged many to pursue further graduate or professional education. He was the author of several influential books in his field including "Sources of American Student Activism," "Social Movements: Development, Participation and Dynamics," and "Sociology: Traditional and Radical Perspectives." In addition to teaching, he served as chair of the Sociology Department from 1991-2000, served on the legislative committee for the California Faculty Association, and was a cofounder of the Faculty Coalition for Public Higher Education, a group dedicated to achieving funding stabilization for the state's public colleges and universities. Following retirement, Jim resettled in Berkeley with his wife Patsy. Jim was a wonderful father and husband who greatly enjoyed family life and always welcomed friends of his children into his home. Friends fondly recall his warm smile, terrific sense of humor, loyalty, tolerance, and how he cared so deeply about sociology, higher education, and social and political justice. He is survived by his loving wife; daughter, Ann of Berkeley; and son, Jeff of Los Angeles. 

San Fransisco Chronicle, April 25, 2007



I have taught in the Department of Sociology at San Diego State University since 1975 and was Chair from 1991-2000. Until 1991 I taught and researched in the areas of social movements and political sociology, as well as taught statistics and methodology. I have written several books and articles, including The Sources of American Student Activism, and Social Movements: Development, Participation, and Dynamics (with Maurice Jackson), as well as articles on collective behavior for the Annual Review of Sociology (with Gary T. Marx), and the International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences. 

This focus changed significantly in 1991, lasting to the present in 2002, when I became involved in the struggles of higher education.  Whereas I still teach and do research in social movements and political sociology, my interests have become increasingly centered on problems of higher education, where I have focused on academic and applied - including legislative - solutions to such problems as budget cuts, reduction of tenure-track faculty, distance learning, copyright ownership of courses, and the increasing corporate influence over the university.

All of this has Berkeley origins. I was an undergraduate and graduate student in Sociology at Berkeley, taking courses with most of the well-known professors then, including Neil Smelser, Bob Blauner, Bob Somers, Herbert Blumer, Erving Goffman, David Matza, Reinhard Bendix, and William Kornhauser. I was also exposed to the early-1960s protests over civil rights, the death penalty, and nuclear weapons, which gave me a political as well as academic education.

My first day of graduate school in Sociology, October 1, 1964, was the beginning of the Free Speech Movement. The lessons from the FSM - and later Vietnam protests - were invaluable in 1992 when I helped restore 9 academic departments which were targeted for elimination at SDSU in the budget crisis of the early-1990s, assisted by much appreciated support from Neil Smelser and several other members of the Berkeley faculty.

Dissertation Title
Political Consciousness and Student Political Activism
Dissertation Book Title
Political consciousness and student activism
Beverly Hills, Calif.