The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Alan Acock Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen.

March 2, 2017


Alan Colby Acock was born in 1944 in Trenton, New Jersey and spent his early years in Norristown, Pennsylvania. At the age of twelve, Acock moved with his family to Spokane, Washington, where he remained through the completion of his high school education. Interested in public service, Acock enrolled at Eastern Washington State College in 1962, majoring in Political Science and minoring in Economics. Following that, he continued on at Washington State University, where he completed a master's degree in Political Science before shifting his focus to Sociology. It was during this period that Acock first came into contact with quantitative sociological methods, a discipline that would inform much of his research agenda in the years to come. He finished his WSU doctoral studies in 1971.

Acock's first academic appointment was at the University of Southern California, where he joined the Sociology department and headed its statistics and methods program. While at USC, Acock also published his first book, The Primary Group: Its Rediscovery in Contemporary Sociology. Acock additionally developed a career-spanning interest in studying family dynamics during his seven years at USC.

In 1978, Acock left USC for the University of Oklahoma. Two years later, Acock relocated again, this time to Virginia Tech. During his four years in Blacksburg, Acock directed the Sociology department's graduate program and conducted methodological work for the Red Cross.

In 1984, Acock made yet another change, this time joining the Sociology faculty at Louisiana State University. While there, he published two highly influential papers - one on a theory of marriage timing and a second evaluating the impact of divorce on children.

Acock's final academic home was Oregon State University, where he arrived in 1990 to take charge of the newly created Human Development and Family Sciences department, which was located in OSU's College of Home Economics. During his tenure as department chair, Acock focused on improving scholarly rigor within the department and also oversaw a strengthening of its graduate program and a nearly ten-fold expansion of its undergraduate enrollment. He stepped down as chair in 2002 to focus more intently on his research.

While at Oregon State, Acock co-edited The Sourcebook on Marriage and Family Theory Research, an influential publication sponsored by the National Council on Family Relations, with which Acock has been very active. He is also the author of Family Diversity and Well-Being, a well-received book published in 1994, as well as A Gentle Introduction to Stata, which is a textbook that is now in its fifth edition. He likewise published a 2005 paper, "Working with Missing Values," that has proven influential in multiple fields throughout the social sciences as well as in education and medical research. Name an OSU Distinguished Professor in 2009, Acock retired from OSU in 2015.