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Emeritus Sociology Professor J. Milton Yinger, 1916-2011

Aug. 1, 2011

John Milton Yinger, internationally renowned sociologist and professor at Oberlin College for 40 years, died Thursday, July 28, 2011, at Kendal at Oberlin. He was a 95 years old.

Yinger is widely known for having coined the concept of a counterculture. When he originated the idea in 1960, he called it “contraculture,” but later adopted “counterculture.” In 1982 he published Countercultures: The Promise and Peril of a World Turned Upside Down.

Yinger also wrote extensively on the sociology of religion, race and ethnic relations, education, and social theory. His book Religion, Society, and the Individual (Macmillan, 1957) was translated into Italian, French, and Spanish. Other of his texts, including The Scientific Study of Religion (Macmillan, 1970) have been translated into nine languages, including Chinese and Portuguese. Yinger collaborated with his Oberlin colleague George E. Simpson on Racial and Cultural Minorities: An Analysis of Prejudice and Discrimination (Harper Brothers, 1953). In 1958, they received the Anisfield-Wolf Award for the best scholarly work on race relations.

Born in Quincy, Michigan, in 1916, Yinger earned a BA at DePauw University in 1937, an MA at Louisiana State University in 1939, and a PhD at the University of Wisconsin in 1943. He joined Oberlin’s faculty in 1947 after spending six years at Ohio Wesleyan University, and he was named full professor in 1952. In 1971, he was elected secretary of the American Sociological Association and president of the association in 1976. His numerous academic honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Following his 1987 retirement from Oberlin’s faculty, Yinger served on the Dean's Research Group on Black Student Progress in 1986-87 and on the Archives Advisory Committee from 1989 to 1995. He also continued publishing his scholarly work, including Ethnicity: Source of Strength? Source of Conflict?

In 1993, Yinger moved to the Kendal at Oberlin community with his wife, Winnie McHenry Yinger, whom he married in 1941. She died in 2002. He is survived by their three children Susan Johnson, John Yinger, and Nancy Yinger.

Yinger’s memorial service takes place in the meeting house of the First Church in Oberlin on Wednesday, August 3, at 11 a.m., followed by a reception in the church’s fellowship hall.

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  • Write anything you like as long as it’s civil and productive. Attack ideas if you wish, but not people. Oberlin = love, remember? (Seriously. Be nice or your comment will be removed.)

I was very privileged to do some music therapy work with Milt Yinger in his final months. In addition to his extraordinary contributions to sociology, Yinger had a profound love for singing. When he was younger, probably college-age, he and his many siblings sang in a group called the "Yinger Singers;" Milt was a baritone.

Even in his final days, Milt always had a wonderful sense of humor, and was an absolute pleasure to work with.

Max Mellman (Aug. 27, 2011)

Milt was one of the most distinguished members of the Oberlin faculty in the college's long history. It is almost unheard of for a professor at a liberal arts college to be president of a major professional association, as Milt did in becoming president of the American Sociological Association. He was an outstanding teacher; many of his students went on to become major figures in the academic world. RACIAL AND CULTURAL MINORITIES, which he coauthored with George Simpson, professor of anthropology, was a landmark in the study of race relations. Enormously influential, the book went through five editions. Deeply engaged professionally, Milt was also thoroughly devoted to Oberlin College and was an influential, very active participant in college governance.

Clayton Koppes (Aug. 3, 2011)