F. Ivan Nye, 95

Passed away March 1, 2014

Longtime NCFR member Dr. Francis Ivan Nye passed away on March 1, 2014, in Juliaetta, Idaho, at the age of 95.

Dr. Nye was born in 1918. He joined NCFR in 1955 and was a member through 2009. He served as NCFR President in 1965-66, and was also an editor of what was at the time called the Journal of Marriage and the Family.

Learn more about Dr. Nye in the NCFR History Book online, and read the memorial below, written by his friend, Viktor Gecas.

Written by Viktor Gecas, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Purdue University

Ivan Nye was born in Prospect, Oregon in 1918. At that time, Prospect was a village of about 100 people. It's not much bigger now. It is located in southwest Oregon in the heart of the Cascade Mountains, surrounded by pristine wilderness with its beautiful lakes, mountain streams, and forests. Growing up in this beautiful place shaped Ivan's character -- his rugged individualism, sense of adventure, and love of nature. It is a wonder that he ever became a sociology professor. But that came later. In his youth he was a lumberjack, and a damn good one according to his family. Then came World War II and Ivan served as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force. Perhaps it was this experience that broadened his horizons beyond Prospect Oregon, although his heart never left nature's wild places.

After the War, Ivan's goals shifted toward higher education. He received his B.A. degree from Willamette University (1946) and went on to Michigan State University for his Ph.D. (1952). His first academic job was at Ohio State University as an Assistant Professor of Rural Sociology. After a few years, he left for a similar job at the University of Missouri, and then on to Bucknell University as an Associate Professor of Sociology. Again, after a few years, he left to take a position at Washington State University, where he would spend most of his academic career (even while taking positions at Florida State University several times). Ivan had wanderlust in his academic career as well as in other aspects of his life.

Ivan's specialty was family sociology. During the 1960s and 70s he was one of the most prominent and influential family sociologists. He was elected President of the National Council on Family Relation (1965-66). He was the recipient of the Burgess Award from the NCFR (1976), given for a career of "distinguished contributions to family research and theory." He served on the Governor's Commission on the Status of Women (1965-1969). He was Editor of the Journal of Marriage and the Family (1960-64), and served on the editorial boards of many other scholarly journals. During these decades, Ivan also built a first-rate graduate program in family sociology at Washington State University.

Early in his research and writings Ivan focused on family relations and juvenile delinquency. In a series of articles and a book (Family Relations and Delinquent Behavior , 1958), he analyzed how family structural and interactional variables, combined with social class and other macro variables, affect juvenile delinquency. While this was an important and fruitful line of research, Nye's major contribution to family sociology was the study of family roles and the impact of women's employment and other social trends. Ivan was one of the pioneers in the study of the consequences of wives/mothers' employment for spousal and parental roles in American families (Nye, et al, The Employed Mother in America, 1963; Lois Hoffman and Ivan Nye, Working Mothers, 1974; Nye, Role Structure and Analysis of the Family, 1976). Now this is one of the most studied topics in family sociology.

Ivan Nye made substantial contributions to family theory development as well. His book with Felix Berardo, Emerging Conceptual Frameworks in Family Analysis (1966) sparked considerable interest in the identification, expansion, and utilization of theoretical perspectives in family studies. This culminated a dozen years later in a major effort at family theory building, sponsored by the Theory Workshop of NCFR, in two edited volumes: Burr, Hill, Nye, and Reiss (Eds.), Contemporary Theories About the Family, Vol. 1 and 2. The Free Press, 1979. These books became essential reading in family sociology graduate programs for decades. Ivan's own theoretical preference was social exchange theory, which he considered particularly useful for understanding and explaining family relations ("Choice, Exchange, and the Family", in Burr et al, 1979; "Is Choice and Exchange Theory the Key?" Journal of Marriage and the Family, 1978). He was a strong advocate of this theory.

Ivan Nye had strong applied interests as well. He believed that sociological knowledge should be used to improve society and the quality of people's lives. The last two years of his professional life he spent as a Visiting Scholar at the Boys Town Center for the Study of Youth Development (1979-81), developing programs for helping troubled youth.

Ivan Nye lived a long, productive, and adventurous life. He was fiercely independent, loved the wilderness, and was an avid fisherman. He would drive to Alaska (in his van, pulling a small boat) to fish for salmon, and crisscross the United States to fish and hike in various wilderness places. Even after suffering a debilitating stroke 12 years ago, that left him partially paralyzed, he struggled to maintain his independence and adventurous lifestyle, until eventually, he no longer could. He spent the last few years living with his son Lloyd and daughter-in-law Cynthia in Julietta, Idaho, where he died peacefully on March 1, 2014. His ashes will be buried in Prospect, Oregon, as he wished. I will miss him.