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James W. Loewen (1942-2021)

We mourn the loss of our friend and colleague and remain committed to the work he began.


Loewen was off-screen to the right, teaching an overflow crowd at the National Council for the Social Studies.

I have always been upset by the many college teachers who don’t like teaching. In April, 1969, after I finished grad school at Harvard, a student strike closed Harvard. Some professors I had known were delighted, because now “I could get my work done.” At many schools, professors maneuver to avoid undergraduate courses, especially large introductory courses. At my first college, Tougaloo, you had to have permission of the Dean to teach a first-year course larger than 36. At my second, the University of Vermont, you had to have permission of the Dean to teach a first-year course smaller than 40. Quite a contrast!

Loewen was proud of his teaching.

  • At the end of his first year at Tougaloo, the college did a well-organized survey of teaching under the stewardship of a numerate professor in Political Science. On the overall scale, Loewen came in first, just ahead of an equally young “Black Power” professor in Political Science, Charles Jones, whom Loewen liked. He thought the real heroes of the exercise were the students, who showed their appreciation of both faculty members, without regard to race.
  • Later Loewen won the Teacher of the Year award at Tougaloo  
  • At the University of Vermont, in his first or second year, the college did well-organized survey of teaching under the stewardship of a student committee. Two of Loewen’s classes were ranked among the hardest at the college; only courses in physics and chemistry were ranked harder. Nevertheless, they were ranked popular.
  • Also at UVM, twice Loewen got applause at the end of his last lecture in “Intro. Soc.” at UVM. That lecture, “Sociology and Citizenship,” also drew attendance from students not enrolled in the course.
  • Senior sociology majors at UVM selected Loewen as their AKD speaker his last year at UVM.
  • Students at Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, elected Loewen as their Commencement speaker in 2008 after he had spoken on campus the previous February.

Loewen wrote several small articles for other sociologists, suggesting ways to teach concepts other than by lecture.

Often at the University of Vermont Loewen taught a large introductory course in sociology. Connected with this course, he developed teaching innovations for large lectures that helped privileged white students come to terms with their privilege. He shared these ideas with other faculty members at the University of Vermont and with sociologists nationally in such publications as: