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April 3, 2003

OBITUARY: Robert William Avery

Robert William Avery, a retired Pitt professor of sociology who studied how organizations functioned and who mentored generations of foreign students, died March 25, 2003, of kidney and heart failure. He was 78.

Avery taught at Pitt for 34 years. Upon his retirement 11 years ago, the sociology department created the Robert W. Avery Award to honor the outstanding senior sociology major chosen annually by the faculty. Students honored Avery as a “Great Professor” during a Pitt convocation in 1966.

Born in Duluth, Minn., Avery earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s degree in sociology from Oberlin College. He served in the Air Force, 1943-46 and 1950-52, and was discharged as a captain. He completed his Ph.D. in sociology at Harvard in 1959.

Avery joined the Pitt faculty with a joint appointment in the sociology department and the Administrative Science Center. During his Pitt career, Avery taught for a year at Tokyo’s International Christian University. He also was a visiting professor in Guangzhou, China, where he helped to re-establish sociology as a discipline after the Cultural Revolution.

Avery is survived by his wife of 48 years, Mineko Sasahara Avery; a daughter, Robin Avery of Cleveland, and a son, Christopher Avery of Cambridge, Mass.; a sister, Marjorie Bakkila of Pittsburgh, and two grandchildren.

The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions be made to the Robert W. Avery Award Fund, University of Pittsburgh Department of Sociology, c/o Institutional Advancement, 500 Craig Hall, 200 S. Craig St., Pittsburgh 15260.

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