Obituary: Peter H. Rossi, noted sociologist

Peter H. Rossi, 84, of Amherst, the Stuart A. Rice professor emeritus of Sociology and director emeritus of the Social and Demographic Research Institute (SADRI), died Oct. 7 at home.

Born in New York City, he was a graduate of Townsend Harris High School and City College of New York.

During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army as a forward artillery observer and as a military policeman.

He obtained a Ph.D. in sociology from Columbia University in 1951 and held faculty positions at Harvard University, the University of Chicago and Johns Hopkins University prior to joining the Sociology faculty in 1974.

Highly regarded for his work on evaluating social programs, he was the author of more than 200 scholarly journal articles and 40 books, including “Of Human Bonding: Parent-Child Relations Across the Life Course,” which he co-wrote with his wife, sociologist Alice S. Rossi.

His research spanned a number of areas, including the homeless, the efficacy of community action programs, gun crime, parent-child relationships and home ownership.

He was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1986 and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1977. He was president of the American Sociological Association in 1979-80 and former director of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.

He was the editor of the American Journal of Sociology from 1958-61 and also served for many years as editor of Social Science Research, where he was senior advisory editor at the time of his death.

He was director of SADRI from 1974-82, then served as its research director for 10 years until his retirement in 1992.

Last year, in recognition of his important contributions to the theory or practice of program evaluation, the Association for Public Policy and Management (APPAM) created an annual award in his honor.

In 1995, he received the P.F. Lazsarsfeld Award from the American Sociological Association for his contributions to the study of methodology.

His campus awards included a Faculty Fellowship in 1984-85 and the Chancellor’s Medal as a Chancellor’s Lecturer in 1983.

He leaves his wife of 55 years, Alice S. Rossi, the Harriet Martineau professor emerita of Sociology; three children, Kris, Nina and Peter; and six grandchildren.