Department History

A Brief History of the Department

The beginning of the Department of Sociology & Criminology at Gonzaga University lies in the College of Arts and Science and the Department of Philosophy in 1924. Rev. Daniel J. Reidy, S.J., a lecturer in the Philosophy of Religion and Sociology, provided instruction in Principles of Sociology, "an introduction to the scientific study of social problems and their relation to the family and the individual as well as to civil society." Despite this singular course, the College offered a Sociology major through the Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Philosophy degree as early as 1925. In the late 1920s, Rev. Reidy, S.J., served as University President (1927-1930), before rejoining the faculty as professor of sociology in 1933.

In 1932, Rev. Leo J. Robinson, S.J., journeyed from St. Louis University to join the faculty as a professor of sociology. In the midst of the Depression and the financial struggles of Gonzaga, Rome appointed Rev. Robinson, S.J., as University President (1934-1942). He instituted major changes in the College of Arts and Sciences by introducing a social science curriculum, forming the Department of Sociology, and hiring new faculty – Rev. Van F. Christoph, S.J. (1935) and Rev. James Goodwin, S.J. (1938). The Department offered a broad curriculum for undergraduate and graduate students (Master of Arts), including Social Problems, the Family, Social Psychology, Social Inadequates, Cultural Anthropology, Social Statistics, Social Economics, and Population, as well as a concentration in Criminal Justice (Criminology, Penology).

Having recovered from the financial challenges of the 1930s, Gonzaga faced the national challenges of the War years (1941-1945), as students entered military service. The Department, however, continued to deliver a robust curriculum, including Sociology of Nurses for the new nursing program (1948). Faculty held public talks on juvenile delinquency and mental health. Students volunteered service work at Eastern State Hospital (Medical Lake, WA). The Department sponsored the Regis Club (1950-1956) for social science students interested in solving social problems. Profs. Robinson, S.J., and Christoph, S.J., authored a Catholic-based Introduction to Sociology (1951) and helped establish the Industrial Relations Institute (1940s-1950s). The Department hired new faculty — Rev. Daniel Lyons, S.J. (1945), Vatro Murvar (1958), Rev. William J. Gaffney, S.J. — and continued to offer cross-listed courses (e.g., Biology, Psychology), summer courses (e.g., Juvenile Delinquency, History of Jazz), and Anthropology courses (e.g., Cultural Anthropology, North American Indians).

In the 1960s, the University faced the national turmoil of the free speech and anti-war movements, the Kennedys and King assassinations, and race riots with surprising ease. The University opened study abroad opportunities for juniors (1963), including Japan and Mexico, and the Department offered Social and Economic Development of Italy for the Florence program. The University conferred emeriti status on Profs. Robinson, S.J., and Gaffney, S.J., and dedicated Robinson Hall in honor of his outstanding service. As Department Chair, Prof. Christoph, S.J., guided the new faculty — Donald Hueber (1962), Rev. James P. Goodwin, S.J. (1965), Rev. James McCready, S.J. (1965), Frank Crabtree (1965), Rev. James Meehan, S.J. (1969), Fr. George St. Hilaire (1969) – in expanding the curriculum. Rev. Lyons, S.J., and Dr. Crabtree were notable for their anti-war positions. The Department weighed in on "hot" campus debates, including student evaluations, Core courses, and the pass-fail option.

The 1970s found the nation struggling with recession, oil shocks, Watergate, the end of the Vietnam War, and the rise of the Equal Rights Movement. The University faced a financial crisis and appointed Rev. Bernard Coughlin, S.J., as the new University President (1974-1996). The Department granted him a Full Professorship for his social work career at the St. Louis University. The University recognized Prof. Christoph, S.J., with emeritus status for over 35 years of dedicated service. With the changing social climate, the Department hired several women instructors (e.g., Mrs. Jane Cefalu (Rinehart)) and Robert Thompson (1975) to deliver new courses in social work, family, gender, and sexuality. Prof. Hueber guided the Department's Social Work option, honors program, Anthropology program, and new Criminal Justice Program. In response to the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement, the Department, along with Psychology and Political Science, offered an inter-disciplinary Criminal Justice program (1975), including vocational training for fire and police officers and summer student internships in local law enforcement agencies. These expansions, however, strained the small faculty, and the Department eliminated the Social Work option, the Master of Arts, and the Anthropology program by the late 1970s. Like the previous decades, the faculty participated in public debates, including the changing role of women in U.S. society and the Death Penalty in Washington.

The 1980s and 1990s saw the arrival of a new generation of lay faculty. Edward Vacha (1981) and Marguerite Marin (1984) brought a renewed emphasis on social psychology, political sociology, and social inequality. Al Miranne (1989) and Georgie Ann Weatherby (1994) met the demand for Criminal Justice studies by providing course options with a social justice orientation and a co-curricular Mock Trial program. The new Criminal Justice curriculum offered inter-disciplinary training in Political Science, Psychology, Sociology, and Philosophy.

Like the previous century, the new millennium brought difficult challenges. With the national visibility of the athletic programs, the University experienced rapid student growth, facility expansions, and faculty hiring. The Department hired Matthew Bahr (2004), Vikas Gumbhir (2005), William Hayes (2005), and Andrea Bertotti Metoyer (2006) to provide a range of courses from Population and Society and Policing in the United States to Global Social Change and Environmental Sociology, promising to fulfill the university slogan of "educating people the world needs most." The Department also offered three popular co-curricular programs: Mock Trial (since 1997), the Graduate School Workshops (since 2007), and the Undergraduate Research Seminar (since 2008). The Graduate School Workshops have sent over 50 students to graduate programs, and the Undergraduate Research Seminar has enabled over 100 undergraduates to present their research at the Pacific Sociological Association's annual spring conference.

In the 2010s, the University conveyed emeritus status to Professors Rinehart (2015) and Vacha (2016) for their long-term service. Along with the transition of Prof. Bahr (2014) into the Dean's Office, these changes brought new faculty — Joseph Johnston (2014), Naghme Morlock (2014), Nicole Willms (2014), and Michael DeLand (2017), Angela Bruns (2019), and Forrest Rodgers (2019) – and new courses (e.g., Mass Trauma and Genocide, Sociology of Sport, Mass Incarceration, Urban Sociology, and Race and Crime). Prof. Bertotti Metoyer instituted the Solidarity and Social Justice minor for students seeking praxis-oriented training in social justice studies (2015). Based on an extensive program review (2016-2017), the Department began the transition to a Criminology program, provided curriculum support for the new Core, and offered more community-engaged learning options.

How will the Department respond to the 2020s? If the past is any indicator, the Department will provide a critical and challenging curriculum to deepen our student's theoretical, methodological, and vocational training. The Department will also seek opportunities to put our students into the field to gain first-hand experience in discovering, researching, and transforming the social world. Finally, the Department will respond to new social challenges by hiring faculty to deliver new courses, staying at the forefront of Sociology and Criminology.