Michael R. Sosin, AB’72, SSA scholar committed to social justice, 1950-2014

Steve Koppes
Associate News DirectorUniversity Communications

Michael R. Sosin, the Emily Klein Gidwitz Professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, died Nov. 25 after an extended illness. He was 64.

Sosin served on the faculty at SSA for 26 years and was a longtime member of the UChicago community, having earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology in the College in 1972. Sosin conducted widely influential research on the problems of homelessness, substance abuse services and urban poverty, and he held a special interest in the relationship between social institutions and disadvantaged clients. 

“Mike cared deeply for the most marginalized and disadvantaged in society, and I think this concern motivated his insistence on rigorous scientific inquiry in social work and social welfare,” said Assoc. Prof. Julia Henly. “He was brilliant and had extremely high standards of scholarship. I don't know that most of us could ever live up to his standards, but his mentorship has motivated many of us to do our best.”

One of the hallmarks of Sosin’s career, representing a major contribution to the profession, was his role serving as editor of Social Service Review, the oldest and most highly regarded scholarly journal in the profession. During his tenure as editor of SSR from 1998 through 2014, he led major advances to the journal, including enlisting an external review board, editing manuscripts electronically and making all issues, starting from the first volume in 1927, accessible online. 

Many on the faculty remember Sosin as a mentor, particularly during their early careers. “Michael would help you see your possibility, your promise,” said Assoc. Prof. Susan Lambert, the current editor of SSR. “He took your work as seriously as he took his own, and he was willing to invest his time and his substantial intellectual prowess in helping you improve your work. He was never patronizing, was always willing to explain what he knew in a matter-of-fact manner and was happy to learn from others. These qualities made him such a good mentor to doctoral students and junior faculty, as well as a good editor of Social Service Review.”

“Michael was especially valued for his deeply thoughtful and incisive mind,” said Neil Guterman, dean of SSA and the Mose & Sylvia Firestone Professor. “He was committed to those most deeply disadvantaged, as well as to the high standards in his own social welfare scholarship and in his role as editor of Social Service Review. He was a colleague and friend, and he will be sorely missed in the SSA community.”

 

Sosin joined the SSA faculty as a professor in 1988, after serving as a scholar in residence at SSA from 1986 to 1987. He was named the Emily Klein Gidwitz Professor in 1997. Sosin was also an affiliate of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an affiliate at UChicago’s Population Research Center.

Assoc. Prof. Yoonsun Choi also remembered, “Mike was an incredible mentor to me and many others. He was an exemplary scholar of excellence, integrity and was committed to social justice. Personally, I greatly benefited and learned from his advice and wisdom in matters of research and career decisions. Mike also fostered independent thinking and opinion, and I felt safe to disagree with him.”

 

Sosin is survived by his sister Sybil and several cousins. Funeral services already were held.