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Department of Sociology News

Kent State Department of Sociology Dedicates Dr. James T. Laing Memorial Conference Room

Posted Aug. 29, 2011

To pay tribute to his father and provide a permanent legacy, Kent State University alumnus Tom Laing, ’55, ’56, and his wife, Barbara, made a recent gift to name the conference room in the Department of Sociology in memory of Dr. James T. Laing, the first chair of the department. Their gift also established an endowed scholarship, the Dr. James T. Laing Sociology Scholarship in support of undergraduate and graduate sociology majors.

The Laing’s traveled from their home in Michigan for the dedication of the newly refurbished conference room located on the second floor of Merrill Hall, home of the Department of Sociology.
James T. Laing, received a Ph.D. in sociology in 1933 from The Ohio State University, where worked on race and ethnic relations. He joined the faculty of Kent State’s Department of History and Social Sciences in 1935. In the fall of 1937, the Kent State Department of Sociology was formed with Laing as department head, a post he held until 1967. In the 30 years of Laing’s tenure, the department went from a two-person operation to a doctoral degree granting unit.
One of Dr. Laing’s most memorable achievements was the hiring of Oscar Ritchie, Kent State’s first African-American professor. Ritchie later became department head.
Tom Laing had a distinguished career with United Way, and Barbara was a teacher. They are now both retired.
“Naming the conference room for the founding chair of the department helps us know who we are as a department, says current chair Richard Serpe. “Furthermore, in this time of increased costs of education, being able to assist students who are exceptional and in need is not only pleasurable but priceless.”