AAPOR recognizes and gives tribute to those who have passed through their work to advance the field of public opinion research.
To share the news of a colleague’s passing, please email [email protected]
To share the news of a colleague’s passing, please email [email protected]
Philip Meyer, a former reporter who pioneered new ways to incorporate data, quantitative methods and computers into investigative journalism, died on Saturday at his home in Carrboro, N.C., a suburb of Chapel Hill. He was 93.
His daughter Melissa Meyer said the cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease.
With a career spanning the latter half of the 20th century and several years into the 21st, Mr. Meyer was at the center of a revolution within the craft and business of journalism — a revolution that, to a large degree, he helped shape.
When he began working as an assistant editor at The Topeka Daily Capital in Kansas in the mid-1950s, computers were room-size, turtle-speed contraptions, and reporting was done mostly through interviews, with the occasional trip to the library or the government records office.
Mr. Meyer was among the few reporters who saw the growing power of computers to crunch data and produce new insight into complex questions.
His breakthrough came in 1967, in the aftermath of the Detroit riot that summer. Mr. Meyer, by then a national correspondent for The Akron Beacon Journal in Ohio, had spent the previous year at Harvard on a Nieman fellowship for journalists, intending to study how pollsters used computers to manipulate data.
Instead, he realized the possibility of using computers in his own work. He took courses, learned code and even devoted time to using an IBM mainframe computer.
He went to The Detroit Free Press, which, like The Beacon Journal, was a Knight-Ridder paper, as a favor to the editor, who said that his own reporters were exhausted and he needed fresh bodies.
Mr. Meyer immediately seized on a claim, common in the news media, that the rioters had mostly been poor, uneducated Black migrants from the South. He gathered as much demographic data as he could, ran it through a computer and got a much different picture: The rioters were more likely to be locally born, and were spread evenly across the socioeconomic spectrum.
A year later, Mr. Meyer shared in the Pulitzer Prize for local general or spot news reporting, which went to The Detroit Free Press for its coverage of the riot.
That work earned Mr. Meyer national recognition as the leading thinker on bringing social-science methods into reporting. He summed up his approach in his book “Precision Journalism: A Reporter’s Introduction to Social Science Methods,” published in 1973 and today considered one of the most important books about reporting ever written.
“They are raising the ante on what it takes to be a journalist,” he wrote in his first chapter. Today, he said, “a reporter has to be a database manager, a data processor and a data analyst.”
Not everyone agreed. In the early 1970s, Mr. Meyer consulted with two investigative reporters at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele, for a seven-part series analyzing whether judges were too lenient on violent offenders.
Many politicians said yes. But the trio, using a program Mr. Meyer wrote for a mainframe rented from a Maryland defense contractor, showed that the answer was conclusively no.
The series, “Crime and Injustice,” won several awards. But it was shut out from the Pulitzers, Mr. Steele said he was later told, by jurors who insisted that their work was not journalism.
“There was a lot of built-up resistance to something like that,” Mr. Steele said in a phone interview. “That didn’t seem like it was traditional reporting.”
That opposition weakened over time, as computers became central to daily life and reporters became comfortable with using data in a rigorous fashion, not as a replacement for traditional methods but as a supplement — a change instigated and guided by Mr. Meyer.
“One of the things that I think Phil did so well was help us eliminate the idea that there is a tension between narrative and deep, deep on-the-ground reporting and more disciplined — what he would call precision — journalism,” Sarah Cohen, a journalism professor at Arizona State University, said by phone. “That they can stand side by side and in the same pieces, and that each can be made stronger by the other.”
Philip learned to cover issues in science and technology at Kansas State University and graduated in 1952 with a degree in technical journalism. He then spent two years in the Navy as a public-information officer.
He returned to Kansas in 1954 to work as an editor at The Topeka Daily Capital. He married Sue Quail, a fellow staff member at the paper, in 1956. She died in 2021.
Along with his daughter Melissa, Mr. Meyer is survived by two other daughters, Kathy Lucente and Sarah Meyer; a brother, John; eight grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Another daughter, Caroline Meyer, died in 2020.
Mr. Meyer received a master’s degree in political science from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in 1958. He and his family then moved to Miami, where he worked as an education reporter for The Miami Herald.
Four years later he became a Washington correspondent for The Akron Beacon Journal. He served as a national correspondent and director of news research for Knight-Ridder before joining the journalism faculty at Chapel Hill in 1981. He retired in 2008.
As a professor, he wrote widely on journalism ethics and the newspaper business. His book “The Vanishing Newspaper: Saving Journalism in the Information Age” (2004) predicted that the steady decline of newspapers would continue unless they found a new way to engage with audiences — a prediction that has been largely borne out.
He was equally prescient about the ways in which changes in the economic model of journalism shifted the boundaries around conversations about objectivity — a change he welcomed.
“As the audience fragments, trust is still important,” he wrote in USA Today in 2004. “But it should be based on getting the facts right, not on the pseudo-objectivity that comes from a journalist concealing his or her views.”
Johnny Blair died November 6, 2023 in Washington, DC. He was 78. Johnny was born and raised in Chicago and received his B.A. at the University of Illinois, where he then worked at the university’s Survey Research Lab in Champaign and was mentored by Seymour Sudman. In 1989 he became associate director of the University of Maryland Survey Research Center, which he essentially ran for the next dozen years until leaving to become principal scientist and senior survey methodologist at Abt Associates.He published important work on sampling rare populations, within household selection procedures, pretesting questionnaires, and proxy reporting. In addition, he co-authored two survey methods textbooks Designing Surveys: A Guide to Decisions and Procedures (the first and second editions with Ronald Czaja and the third edition with Czaja and Edward Blair) and Applied Survey Sampling with Edward Blair. Notable among his professional activities were serving on the Public Opinion Quarterly editorial board and on the Design and Analysis Committee of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), often called The Nation’s Report Card.Johnny was a superb conversationalist and wonderful friend. Indeed, he was one of a kind, for example, he had read every word Samuel Beckett published in English. He is survived by his wife Cozette (“Cookie”) Ballesteros.
Richard B. “Dick” Warnecke passed away on Friday, August 19, 2022, just a few days short of his 85th birthday and the 59th anniversary of his marriage to his beloved wife, Barbara. He was born in Brooklyn, NY on August 23, 1937, to Robert and Althea Warnecke.
After graduating from Cornell University in 1959, where he was in the Naval ROTC program, Dick served two years of active duty as a naval officer. Following his military service, he earned a Master’s degree from Colgate and a Ph.D. in Sociology from Duke. After a short period at the State University of New York at Buffalo, Dick and his family moved to the Chicago area where he was a faculty member at the University of Illinois at Chicago for nearly 50 years, holding appointments in Public Policy, Sociology and Public Health.
For much of that time, he was Asst. Director and then Director of the University of Illinois Survey Research Laboratory. After his official retirement in 2007, he continued to serve in various roles in UIC’s Health Research and Policy Centers and at the UIC Cancer Center. Over the course of his long career, Dick conducted research and community outreach that provided immeasurable service to women at risk for and with cancer. He worked to develop and implement interventions that made a difference in women’s lives. Early in his career, his research centered on Illinois’ cancer information needs, and he strongly influenced the creation of the state cancer registry in the mid-1980s.
Dick next turned his attention to smoking, focusing on the fact that more women die from lung cancer than from any other cancer. He led a team to develop a set of novel media-based smoking cessation approaches specifically targeted to women.
Later in his career, Dick and his team worked to better understand why Black women with breast cancer are more likely than their white counterparts to be diagnosed with late-stage, high-grade disease and more aggressive subtypes of breast cancer. In his distinguished career, Dick published more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific papers along with numerous book chapters.
He made a special effort to recruit and mentor junior investigators from underrepresented minority groups and was influential in launching the careers of many researchers who followed in his footsteps to address health disparities. To read more about Dick’s life and impact on the field, please click here.
AAPOR mourns the loss of Elihu Katz, Distinguished Trustee Emeritus Professor of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, who passed away in his home in Jerusalem on December 31, 2021, at the age of 95. For well over half a century, his scholarship has been foundational to public opinion research as well as to the formation and development of the field of communication and media studies.
Elihu’s intellectual and geographic journey was a rich and rewarding one. He received his BA, MA, and PhD (all in sociology) from Columbia University. At the time, Columbia’s Bureau of Applied Social Research and its collection of eminent theorists and researchers were engaged in applied and scholarly studies on the influence of various forms of interpersonal and mass communications. The Bureau was also a leader in developing a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods and research designs for measuring public opinion and media effects.
Elihu was more than a student during this nascent period, working as a research associate at the Bureau and later holding a lecturer position in Columbia’s Department of Sociology and School of General Studies. During this time, he coauthored (with Paul Lazarsfeld) Personal Influence: The Part Played by People in the Flow of Mass Communications, selected by AAPOR as one of the fifty books that most shaped public opinion research. Serving as first author on this ambitious project, the book and related work established the “two-step flow” theory of communication, a theory that remains the subject of study and debate to this day and that has gained new purchase as research and theorizing on social networks and social media have blossomed. Personal Influence has been so significant to the field that it was republished on its 50th anniversary with a new and insightful introduction by Katz.
Few scholars ever produce a work with the import of Personal Influence, but this was only the beginning for Elihu. He went on to a distinguished career, first at the University of Chicago’s Department of Sociology, then as a professor of sociology and communication at Hebrew University, and finally as the Distinguished Trustee Professor of Communication at Penn’s Annenberg School. Along the way, he also held visiting professorships at the University of Manchester (England), the University of Padua (Italy), Keio University (Japan), and the University of Vienna (Austria). From the mid-1980s until 1993, when he joined Penn’s Annenberg School, he spent half of each year at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School. To read more about Elihu’s life and impact on the field, please click here.
Walter K Lindenmann died on Saturday, May 1, 2021, at the age of 84. Walter was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. on October 26, 1936, the son of the late Karl and Elsie Lindenmann. He was an Honorary Life Member of AAPOR.
Walter started his career as a newsman for United Press International, and was the education editor for the Denver Post and the Hartford Times. As a public relations executive, he managed the research departments. He was director of Survey Research of Hill and Knowlton, Inc. and President of its research subsidiary, Group Attitudes Corporation, from 1976 to 1985. He created the Research Department of Ketchum Worldwide and served as the company’s Senior Vice President/Director of Research from 1987 to 2000. He also served as Director of University Relations at Hofstra University, as Assistant Director of Public Information for the Connecticut State Department of Education, as a public relations account supervisor at Hill and Knowlton Inc., and as manager of Opinion Research Corporation.
Walter lectured extensively in the United States and also Austria, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Italy, the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Singapore and Spain.
For several years, he served as a visiting adjunct professor of public relations research at Syracuse University and Virginia Commonwealth University.
In 1999, Walter was named by PR Week as one of the 100 most influential public relations professionals of the 20th century.
Walter earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Queens College in New York City, a master’s degree in journalism and a PhD in sociology from Columbia University. While at Queens College, he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and was a member of the Lutheran Club, where he met his wife, Ellen.
Walter and Ellen lived in Denver, West Hartford, Port Chester, and Dix Hills, N.Y. The couple retired to Lake Monticello, Va. in 2000. Walter was active in Grace and Glory Lutheran Church, the Fluvanna Flutterwheels square dance club, and the Friendship Force of Charlottesville, Va.
Walter loved the opera, traveling, and camping with his family. He loved sports and was an avid fan of Notre Dame.
He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Ellen Ann, a former New York City teacher and guidance counselor; four children, Melanie Brooks, Paul and his wife Cathy, Mark and his wife Karen and Meredith and her husband James Wankel; eight grandchildren, Christine, Renee, Kathryn, Eve, Gage, Max, Julianna and Jessica; sister, Annemarie Noto; and sister-in-law Arlene Benzmiller. He was preceded in death by two grandchildren, Keith, and Alyson Brooks.
There will be a memorial service to celebrate Walters’ life at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Grace and Glory Lutheran Church at 683 Thomas Jefferson Parkway, Palmyra, VA 22963, or the Hospice of the Piedmont.
Howard Schuman died Sunday, April 18, 2021, in Maine, where he lived for 26 years. He was 93 and had been married to Josephine Miles Schuman for 70 years until she died the month before him. They are survived by their three children, Marc, Elisabeth, and Wade.
Howard was a professor in the University of Michigan sociology department for 32 years and directed the Michigan Survey Research Center from 1982-1990. An Honorary Life Member of AAPOR, Howard served as POQ editor (1986-1993) and AAPOR president (1986-1987). His research, much of it in collaboration with other AAPOR members, has had an enduring influence. One of his books, Questions and Answers in Attitude Surveys: Experiments on Question Form, Wording, and Context, co-authored with Stanley Presser, is on AAPOR’s 1995 list of “50 Books that Have Shaped Public Opinion Research.” Another of his books, Racial Attitudes in America: Trends and Interpretations, co-authored with Charlotte Steeh, Lawrence Bobo, and Maria Krysan, won the AAPOR Book Award in 2005. He worked almost to the end, co-authoring the book Generations and Collective Memory with Amy Corning when he was 87.
Lars was born near Stockholm on December 1, 1944, and spent much of his life in Stockholm.
He studied statistics at Stockholm University where he gained a doctorate under the supervision of Tore Dalenius, an early innovator in survey statistics. Like most Swedes he also had a stint of military service. He started his professional work career at Statistics Sweden in 1966 and spent the next 44 years there, culminating in his appointment as head of the Research and Development Department.
Since retiring from Statistics Sweden, he worked as a consultant in survey methods and quality management. Since 2003 he taught at Stockholm University with professorial status in recognition of his past contributions. He continued teaching post-retirement.
Some of his notable contributions include:
Lars wrote or edited twelve books, eight in the Wiley series in Survey Methodology. These latter include Data Quality Assurance (1977), Telephone Survey Methodology (1988), Measurement Errors in Surveys (1991), Survey Measurement and Process Quality (1997), Introduction to Survey Quality (2003), Survey Methods in Multicultural, Multinational, and Multiregional Contexts (2010), and Total Survey Error in Practice (2017). The 2010 book won the 2013 American Association in Public Opinion Research’s Book Award which recognizes “books that have influenced our understanding of public opinion or survey research methodology.” His latest contributions include Big Data Meets Survey Science: A Collection of Innovative Methods (2020) and a yet-to-be-published volume on computational social science. Lars also wrote numerous journal articles and book chapters on survey methods and quality. His work at the intersection of total survey error and survey quality has had a profound impact on how survey programs and organizations manage for survey quality.
Lars maintained active membership in:
Lars was a very effective statistician at Statistics Sweden, specializing in survey methods, but he was probably best known for his external contributions and international collaborations. Lars began his interest in international collaborations when his mentor, Dalenius, left Stockholm University to teach at Brown University in the U.S. Dalenius invited Lars to Brown and introduced him to U.S. colleagues working in the field. Lars became a highly effective international collaborator who has been described as modest by nature, generous of his time to help others, and a mentor to many younger survey researchers. A long-time colleague and friend recently wrote:
His leadership derived partly from his humility. He was quiet, always; listening, always. And when everyone had their say, he would invent ways to push good ideas forward. He would respect the idea and subordinate his role, if necessary, to promote the idea. Often, no one noticed he was leading us. One of the rarest, and thus most admirable, trait of scholars is humility.
There are three notable examples of where Lars organized and brought together survey researchers to examine critical research challenges facing the industry. He was one of the founders of three highly successful and ongoing yearly workshops: the International Workshop on Household Survey Nonresponse (in its 31st year), the International Total Survey Error Workshop (in its 16th year) and the International Comparative Survey Design and Implementation Workshop (in its 19th year). His contributions to the field also include service on more than 50 international advisory committees.
Lars has been one of the giants of survey methods. He was the winner of the 2012 American Statistical Association’s Waksberg Award for his lengthy and valuable contribution to survey methodology. He won the 2013 World Association for Public Opinion Research’s Helen Dinerman Award as well as the 2018 American Association for Public Opinion Research Lifetime Achievement Award. The citation from the Dinerman Award provides an excellent summary of his contributions.
He received the award for his rigorous introduction of the concept of quality in the design, operation, and management of surveys”, his “efforts to improve data quality and minimize total survey error during his long-career at Statistics Sweden”, his profound influence on the international survey-research community and his work as founding editor of the Journal of Official Statistics (JOS), which “besides being one of the top journals in the field is freely available to readers”. The award is also won for being “co-author and co-editor of many of the leading books on survey-research methods over the last 40 years.” As formulated in the diploma: “Contributing to any of these volumes would mark Lyberg as a star, collectively they make him a constellation. Additionally, he has made important contributions to many international organizations in the field of statistics and survey research.” Among the contributions listed is providing leadership to the worldwide development of survey methodology. The award is given for “outstanding contributions to survey methodology.”
Lars had many interests besides statistics—especially sports where he had encyclopaedic knowledge, especially with regard to tennis, football (soccer) and American baseball. Indeed, he was an excellent tennis player in his younger days and refereed international tennis matches. He enjoyed telling stories of arguing with the likes of Bjorn Borg over line calls. A colleague and good friend recently shared some of his fondest memories:
But we were much more than colleagues; we were friends. We took several trips to Spring Training in Florida over the years. The trips lasted for 10 days, and we were on the road four of those days. Of course, I had to introduce him to southern cooking along the way. We spent a lot of time talking about survey methodology, but there was so much more. In the beginning, we would get to two games a day. As we got older, we settled for one. Lars was an Oriole fan, and I was a Yankee fan. We had to see the Orioles and Yankees at least once. It was great when the two teams were playing each other. I know that those trips were among the high points in my life, and I hope that was true for Lars. I know we will all miss him terribly.
Lars is survived by his partner, Lilli Japec, a fellow statistician at Statistics Sweden, who also became head of Research and Development subsequent to Lars’ retirement; his two adult sons, Luis and Carlos, adopted from Bolivia during his first marriage; and hundreds of friends, colleagues and students.
AAPOR mourns Joe L. Spaeth, who died December 19 at his home in Corvallis, Oregon. He and his wife, Mary Nichols Arragon Spaeth, were Honorary Life Members of AAPOR.
Joe’s foci were the sociology of education, quantitative analysis including methods such as path analysis, social and occupational stratification, and the sociology of organizations. He was a principal investigator and one of the designers of the 1991 National Organizations Study.
Joe received a Master’s degree in 1958 and a PhD in 1961, both from the University of Chicago in Sociology. His first positions were at units affiliated with the University of Chicago, primarily the National Opinion Research Center (NORC). After three years in research positions at the University of California/Berkeley, he returned to NORC as a Senior Study Director. In 1971 he joined the faculty of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with joint appointments in the Department of Sociology and the Survey Research Laboratory. Starting as an associate professor and research associate professor, he became a full professor and research professor in 1981 and remained in those positions until his retirement in 1993. He was also director of the university’s Social Science Quantitative Laboratory from 1981 to 1985.
AAPOR offers condolences to his friends, family and colleagues.
AAPOR mourns the loss of Janet Streicher, who died November 16, 2020. She had been the survey director for Baruch College Survey Center since 2015 and was an active member of AAPOR, the New York chapter of AAPOR (NYAAPOR) and World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR).
At the time of her death, Janet was serving as the chair of the Professional Standards Committee for WAPOR. She had also served in various leadership roles for AAPOR including chair of the Membership and Chapter Relations Committee and treasurer. Janet served two terms as the president of NYAAPOR and received NYAAPOR’s 2020 Harry W. O’Neill Outstanding Achievement Award.
Learn more about Janet on the WAPOR website and in this letter from NYAAPOR President Jay Mattlin. NYAAPOR is planning a virtual tribute for Janet and invites those who knew her to share memories of her on the NYAAPOR website. Janet’s family and friends are also gathering virtually to remember her on December 17, 7-8:30 ET. To attend or share any thoughts you would like read on your behalf, please email Marjorie Connelly.
Janet’s family, friends and colleagues miss her dearly and AAPOR offers condolences to everyone affected by her loss.
We are saddened to share that Jennifer Ann (Shields) Edgar, Ph.D., of Olney, Maryland, died unexpectedly Sunday, November, 8, 2020.
She earned her PhD from the University of Virginia in educational research and joined the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2003. There she served as a research psychologist for nine years and as director of the Behavioral Science Research Center for seven years. She became the associate commissioner for survey methods and research at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in April 2020.
Jennifer was a longtime member of AAPOR and DC-AAPOR who attended numerous AAPOR annual conferences. Her colleagues remember her wit, kindness and dedication to her work.
The family has asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Jennifer’s name to the Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA. Those wishing to donate can also contribute to her children’s college funds via this GoFundMe. To learn more about Jennifer or share a memory of her, see her obituary.
AAPOR offers condolences to her family, friends and colleagues.
Anne Schuetz was born in Lawler, Iowa on June 9, 1920.
She graduated from Omaha Central High School in 1937 and attended Creighton College in Omaha with a major in journalism. In the Fall of 1941, she became one of the earliest employees of the newly organized National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Denver. She soon headed the interviewing department and was also study director of various important projects.
One story she told was about how she and NORC founder Harry H. Field did pretesting under great time constraints. “Our secret Washington client wanted a telegraphic survey done that night. We wrote some tentative questions, and as supper time approached, Harry suggested that we go down to Larimer Street for dinner… We took a typewriter and carbon paper and between courses we would dash out on the street to pretest the questions, revise them and go again before dessert.” She was one of the original attendees of the 1946 Central City Conference on Public Opinion which led to the formal formation of the American Association for Public Opinion Research the following year. She left NORC in 1947 when it moved to the University of Chicago. It is likely she stayed on with the Opinion Research Center, a newly-created NORC affiliate at the University of Denver, headed by Don Cahalan, which closed in 1949. She then went to Germany for several years working with Cahalan as part of the Attitude Research unit of the military occupation administration in the US zone in Germany.
By 1953 she was back in the United States in Washington, DC working at the American Research Bureau founded by Cahalan in 1952. In 1957, a subsidiary, ARB Surveys, Inc. was started with Schuetz as its General Manager and in 1960 she was a Senior Research Analyst there. She later served in research positions in various units of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons/School of Public Health. In 2010, the 65th AAPOR Conference recognized the then six surviving attendees of the Central City conference and Anne was one of two who attended in person. She passed away September 6, 2020.
Ashley Hyon, Vice President of Research & Survey Methods for Marketing Systems Group, died recently.
She had graduated with a Dual Major BBA in Marketing and International Business from Temple University and later completed her Masters in Survey Research at University of Connecticut.
Ashley served on the AAPOR Standard Definitions Committee and was one of the behind-the-scenes folks that keep the AAPOR conference running. She had served in a variety of roles – docent, judge, and conference support. Ashley led the 2018 Speed Networking event at the AAPOR Conference in Denver, ringing cowbells to bring in attendees.
She used her expertise to help clients with their survey designs and recruitment strategies for data collection. Ashley’s co-authored papers were published in Public Opinion Quarterly and the American Statistical Association’s JSM Proceedings.
Ashley was an active member in regional chapters and served the community as a President of the PANJAAPOR chapter. She saw people as the future of AAPOR: the melding of the breadth of knowledge from long-standing members with the new ideas and technical expertise of recent graduates and early career members.
Lauren Harris-Kojetin died peacefully at home with her husband on January 29, 2020, from metastatic cancer at age 56. Lauren became an AAPOR member in the early 1990’s and was an active AAPOR conference participant contributing to the profession with her many papers and presentations. She first met her husband Brian at an AAPOR conference in 1993.
Lauren served as the chief of the Long-Term Care Statistics Branch at the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). At NCHS, she oversaw a research program to design, collect, and produce statistical information on the supply, provision, and use of the major sectors of paid, regulated long-term care services. During her tenure, Dr. Harris-Kojetin led a major redesign of the program that replaced infrequent national surveys of nursing homes, residential care facilities, and home and hospice care, with the biennial National Study of Long-Term Care Providers, which uses administrative records for some sectors and collects survey data for sectors for which there are no national administrative data.
Prior to joining NCHS, Lauren led a research program at LeadingAge, an association of long term care providers, from 2002-2006. From 1995-2202, she was a senior researcher at RTI International, in Health Services, Economics, and Policy Research in the DC office, where she helped develop the Consumer Assessment of Health Plan Surveys (CAHPS). Prior to that, she worked at Response Analysis, Mathematica Policy Research, the Center for Survey Research at Indiana University, and the Eagleton Institute at Rutgers University. She published widely in a range of health and aging journals. Lauren earned her Ph.D. in political science from Rutgers University and was an elected fellow of the Gerontological Society of America.
Eleanor Ruth Gerber of Bowie, Maryland passed away on February 26, 2020 just shy of her 75th birthday on February 27. Eleanor was born in Washington, D.C. in 1945 and grew up in Queens, New York. She leaves behind her sister Judith Werner, niece Liz Werner and nephew Joseph Werner. Eleanor earned a Ph.D. in Anthropology in 1975 from the University of California, San Diego. Her doctoral dissertation was based on field work she did in Samoa. She also held a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Barnard College, Columbia University, New York. She taught Anthropology at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania and George Mason University in Virginia. From 1992-2008 she worked as a research anthropologist and manager at the U.S. Census Bureau where she advocated for increased use of qualitative and ethnographic research methods. She made important contributions to including hard-to-count populations in surveys, design of survey questions on race and ethnicity, and research on respondent privacy and confidentiality. Her cognitive interviewer training courses were legendary and the foundation she laid for this work has lasted long past her time at the agency. Eleanor had a lifelong interest in artistic hobbies including drawing, clay sculpture and a variety of crafts such as painted boxes. She was well known at the Census Bureau for the intricacy and complexity of her doodles, which she maintained were useful for concentration. She sometimes framed her colored pencil “doodles” as art. After retiring she pursued her love for drawing and painting in acrylics. She also enjoyed bird watching and keeping up with close friends. In addition to being a wonderful sister, aunt and friend, Eleanor taught and mentored generations of future researchers and she will be sorely missed by her family, friends and colleagues.
Friends and colleagues are saddened to learn of the passing of Pearl R. Zinner in June of this past year, at the age of 99. A New Yorker born and bred, Pearl Zinner joined NORC in 1951, first working out of the New York office as an interviewer at an hourly wage of 50 cents, moving through the survey department ranks, and becoming its director from 1963 until it closed operations in early 1985. Pearl worked under Directors Clyde Hart, Peter Rossi, Norman Bradburn (3 or 4 times), Jim Davis, Ken Prewitt, and Robert Michael, and Presidents Phil DePoy and Craig Coelen. She eventually served as Special Assistant to the President, where her experience, good nature, and attention to detail were particularly valuable.
Zinner was an “operations person” who was in charge of many of NORC’s most important and challenging studies from the 1960s into the 1980s. She especially focused on health surveys working with researchers from Columbia University, the New York Department of Health, and NIH. One example is described as follows (Hackett, 1991):
In 1973-74 NORC New York Office Director Pearl R. Zinner oversaw the execution of one of the most complicated follow-up data collections in NORC history. In the early 1950s, psychiatrist Thomas A. C. Rennie of Cornell University began the Midtown (Manhattan) Study, a survey that sought to capture how residents of midtown Manhattan are “dispersed along the entire spectrum of mental health variations…” Twenty years later NORC conducted the follow-up to the study … both those who remained in New York and those who had left. Many interviews were conducted in Europe and Asia as well as across the United States. Besides the length of time between the interview and the follow-up…the study was quite long. It had 385 main questions with hundreds more branching questions. The instrument include fifty-five observational items and a number of open-ended items. It could take as long as four hours to administer
The original Midtown Study had enlisted professional psychologists and social workers to act as interviewers, as was common for mental health studies then. For the follow-up, Pearl recruited and trained lay interviewers. The success of those lay interviewers opened the door to future survey research on mental health topics using lay interviewers.
Pearl was project director or senior advisor for a number of national research projects, including notable health care research programs in the 1970s and 80s, including the Longitudinal Follow-Up to the National Material and Infant Health Care Survey (1990-93), National Medical Expenditure Survey (1988-90), and National Medical Care Utilization and Expenditure Survey (1979-80). She also led NORC teams for the Experimental Housing Allowance Program: Demand Experiment (1972-76) and the Evaluation of Follow-Through (1970-75). Under Pearl’s direction from 1964 to 1980, NORC’s New York office played a major role in national research programs and also undertook a series of research programs focused on the city and state, including the Five-Wave Study of Medical Facilities Utilization (1961-69); Reinterview of New York State High School Students, Surveys on Drug Use (1971-73); Utilization of Health and Other Social Services (1966); Physicians’ Attitudes Towards the New York State Abortion Act (1964-70); and the Survey of the Lower East Side (1961-64).
While she was rarely an author, her role in study design, questionnaire development, field management, and other essential data-collection tasks is mentioned in dozens of published acknowledgements.
Zinner was active in AAPOR and served on Council in the mid-1980s. She was an honorary life member of AAPOR.
Pearl Zinner’s AAPOR Heritage interview can be found here.
Jeff Hackett at NORC has offered to collect any communications and pass them on to Pearl’s family. He can be reached at [email protected] or at NORC, 30th floor, 55 East Monroe St, Chicago IL 60603.
Quotation from: Hackett, J. (1992). America by number: National Opinion Research Center fiftieth anniversary report 1991. Chicago: NORC.
The following people contributed to this essay: Dan Gaylin, Jeff Hackett, Rupa Datta, Tom W. Smith, Norman Bradburn, and Alison Gross.