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Ernest Greenwood, professor emeritus of social welfare, dies at 93

– Ernest Greenwood, a University of California, Berkeley, professor emeritus of social welfare whose work in research methodology has influenced generations of social scientists, died Tuesday, May 4. He was 93.

Greenwood died of lung cancer at Alta Bates Medical Center in Berkeley, Calif.

"Ernest introduced rigorous sociological research methods to a field that had been largely dominated by psychological case studies," said James Leiby, UC Berkeley professor emeritus of social welfare. "He was always interested in the empirical testing of theory and hypotheses, not in somebody's impressions."

 Ernest Greenwood
Ernest Greenwood (Photo courtesy of the Klein family)
 

 

Leiby recalled great debates with Greenwood, who held to an empirical approach to understanding human behavior. Greenwood believed strongly in using statistical methods in research to address practical problems in social welfare.

"Ernest Greenwood was a major figure in social welfare, contributing significantly to debates about the professionalization of the field," said James Midgley, dean of UC Berkeley's School of Social Welfare. "His pioneering work from the 1950s is still regularly cited."

Greenwood joined UC Berkeley's faculty in 1953 as an associate professor in social welfare. He co-chaired a committee to establish a doctoral program at the School of Social Welfare. The program was approved by the campus and became operational in 1960.

He earned a reputation among his colleagues as a scholar of great integrity, one who set the very highest standards for himself. It was noted in his personnel records that Milton Chernin, the school's dean at the time, attempted to initiate the promotion process for Greenwood each year from 1957 to 1962. Each of those years, Greenwood asked that consideration for promotion be deferred because he felt that he had not yet yielded enough scholarly publications to warrant a full professorship.

Many of Greenwood's articles have been cited and republished numerous times, including "Social Science and Social Work: A Theory of Their Relationship," "Attributes of a Profession" and one of his most famous texts, "Experimental Sociology: A Study in Method," originally written for his doctoral dissertation and required reading in countless university social research courses.

"He was well-grounded in research methods," said Eileen Gambrill, UC Berkeley professor of social welfare, who references Greenwood's work. "He was a true scholar, and had a sharp intellect. He was always engaging to talk to. He was a model for me."

Even after he retired in 1970, Greenwood remained active and involved with the school. In 1996, he endowed the Greenwood-Emeritus Faculty Prize for Excellence in Writing, which is awarded annually to a master's student whose course work exhibits clear and concise prose.

Greenwood was born to David and Stephanie Grunwald on December 26, 1910, in Kolozsvár, Transylvania, an area that is now Cluj, Romania. Tragically, his mother died during World War I when Greenwood was just six years old.

His father soon remarried, and his new stepmother helped care for him and his two younger sisters. Economic hardships coupled with a rise in anti-Semitism in the region following World War I convinced his father to bring the family to the United States in 1921.

Shortly after the family moved, Greenwood's stepmother gave birth to his brother, Benjamin. While she was in the hospital, however, she contracted pneumonia and died the next day, the second maternal loss Greenwood suffered.

In the wake of his stepmother's death came another family hardship. His father, financially stressed, was forced to give his children the choice of either separating and living with various relatives, or staying together at the Hebrew Orphan Asylum in New York City.

The children opted for the orphanage, where they lived for two years until the father remarried a second time and brought the family together again. A year later, the family moved to Passaic, New Jersey.

In 1930, after graduating from Passaic High School with the second highest grade point average in his class, Greenwood headed off to the University of Ohio at Athens, where he graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor's degree in sociology in 1933.

He subsequently earned a master's degree in sociology from the University of Cincinnati in 1936, and a Ph.D. in sociology from Columbia University in 1943. He also earned a second master's degree, this time in social administration, from the University of Chicago in 1947.

Before he began his professional career, he had changed his last name from Grunwald to Greenwood.

Throughout his student years, Greenwood worked odd jobs to support himself, including a stint as a court statistician and then later as a probation officer at the Hamilton County Court of Domestic Relations in Cincinnati, Ohio. While there, he gained valuable hands-on experience in social services for juvenile delinquents and runaways.

During his studies at Columbia, he supported himself by working at the same orphanage where he had lived for two years as a child. He also lived in the orphanage after it closed in the early 1940s, and remained there until he finished his dissertation.

Before coming to UC Berkeley, Greenwood held various government and academic positions, most notably as assistant director of the Research Department at the Welfare Council of Metropolitan Los Angeles, and as associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh's School of Social Work.

He was also elected vice president of the Pacific Sociological Society for the 1950-1951 academic year.

In the decades after his retirement and until his death, Greenwood had been working on a multi-volume family history that included reflections on the major influences in his life. He noted that his maternal relatives had been bred in the tradition of European socialism, and naturally transitioned to become active in trade unions in the United States. He recalled an adolescence filled with labor rallies and street demonstrations, experiences that he credited with his "early interest in social problems, as well as an affinity for the socially deprived and economically underprivileged."

At Greenwood's request, the family history will be given to the Western Jewish History Center in Berkeley, Calif., to be bound and archived.

Greenwood is survived by his sisters Olga Schwartz of Vancouver, British Columbia, and Magda Grunwald Klein of New Mexico; and six nephews and nieces, and 36 grand- and great-grand nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 16, Grand Lake Gardens Retirement Home, 401 Santa Clara Ave., Oakland, Calif.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Greenwood-Emeritus Faculty Prize for Excellence in Writing in Greenwood's memory. They can be made payable to the UC Berkeley Foundation can be sent to the Greenwood-Emeritus Faculty Prize for Excellence in Writing, c/o the School of Social Welfare, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, Calif., 94720-7400.

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