The Howard W. Odum Professorship in Sociology
The Howard W. Odum Professorship in Sociology was established in 1977 by a gift to UNC from an anonymous former colleague of Odum, who established the University’s department of sociology.
The donor stipulated that the recipient be “an individual with imagination and vision, one with the ability and the energy to express these characteristics as Odum did in teaching, in research, in the application of Social Science to an understanding of society and in the service of society.”
Odum was born in Georgia in 1884. He graduated from Emory College at Oxford, Ga., in 1904. He received an M.A. from the University of Mississippi and earned doctorates from Clark University and Columbia University. After two years with the Philadelphia Bureau of Municipal Research, he taught at the University of Georgia. He then served as the first dean and professor of sociology at Emory University. He came to Chapel Hill in 1920.
Between 1920 and 1954, Odum, a Kenan Professor, organized and staffed a new department of sociology and established the School of Public Welfare (later named the School of Social Work). He also established the Institute for Research in Social Science, the first interdisciplinary social science institute in the United States and helped develop what is now the University’s Department of City and Regional Planning.
Odum was a chief spokesman for the regionalists, who called for social and economic progress through large-scale planning. He believed that “the region should be studied by social scientists who were thoroughly objective yet touched by the compassion of poetry.” The group of young researchers Odum assembled at the University produced a rich body of documentary literature regarding the region’s racial, economic and social needs and solutions.
Odum founded and edited “Social Forces” in 1922. He wrote 20 books on sociology, three novels, a book of African-American ballads and hundreds of articles. His book, Southern Regions of the United States, became a standard text for regionalists.
For his efforts, he was presented the O. Max Gardner Award. A cattle breeder, one of the awards he cherished most was the Master Breeder Award given him in 1949 by the American Jersey Cattle Club for the development of a new genetic type.
His wife, Anna K. Odum, died in 1965. Her will included a $10,000 bequest to the Howard W. Odum Memorial Fund, which was established two years after his death in 1954. The fund is used to provide fellowships for graduate students in sociology.
The Odums had three children: Mary Frances, Howard (B.A. ’47) and Eugene (B.A. ’34, M.A. ’36).
Howard Odum, who taught zoology at Chapel Hill and at the University of Florida, and Eugene, who taught at the University of Georgia, were presented with Carolina’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1978.