Pitzer in the ’60s: A Conversation with William Russell Ellis, Former Pitzer Sociologist

Claremont, Calif. (March 13, 2014)—As part of its 50th Anniversary celebration, Pitzer College presents “Pitzer in the ’60s: A Conversation with William Russell Ellis.” An emeritus professor of architecture at UC Berkeley, Ellis taught sociology at Pitzer from 1966 to 1969 and was the first full-time African-American instructor at The Claremont Colleges during a pivotal period for the civil rights movement in the US. Ellis will speak with Pitzer Professor of Sociology Phil Zuckerman about life and learning at The Claremont Colleges during this era. “Pitzer in the ’60s: A Conversation with William Russell Ellis” will be held Wednesday, March 26 at 4:15 p.m. in the George C.S. Benson Auditorium.

William Russell Ellis in the 1960s.
William Russell Ellis in the 1960s.

After Ellis arrived at Pitzer in 1966, he taught and designed new courses, including Ethnic Communities in the US and Our Lives in Process: the Sociology of Ourselves. His classes examined major social theorists, from Emile Durkheim to Max Weber, and grappled with questions about the nature of knowledge, the notion of community in industrial society and how social scientists’ own experiences shape their perceptions and research. A strong proponent of interdisciplinary study, Ellis also taught courses in anthropology and art.

In 1970, he joined UC Berkeley’s Department of Architecture, where he explored the intersection of sociology and architecture, focusing on social issues in building and urban design. At Berkeley, Ellis served as the assistant dean of the College of Environmental Design, the vice-chancellor of undergraduate affairs and the director of the Institute for the Study of Social Change. In 1994, Ellis received the Berkeley Citation, recognizing distinguished or extraordinary service to the university.

Ellis is the co-editor of Architects People, a collection of essays surveying architects’ ideas about the people who live in the spaces they create. He is also an artist, sculptor and founding member of Ashby Village, a community-based organization that provides assistance and support to older adults.

Ellis was born in Los Angeles in 1935. After graduating from Compton High School, he earned a four-year track scholarship to UCLA, where he received his BA and PhD in sociology. He taught at University of California, Riverside before coming to Pitzer. In 1972, Pitzer’s senior class selected him as their Commencement speaker.

“Pitzer in the ’60s: A Conversation with William Russell Ellis” is presented by the Pitzer College Archives and the Office of the President with support fromthe Pitzer College Campus Life Committee and the Agnes Moreland Jackson Diversity Program Endowed Fund.

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