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DATE: March 14, 2006

Robert Smock, professor emeritus of sociology at UM-Dearborn, died Feb. 25. He was 80.

DEARBORN---Robert B. Smock, professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, died Feb. 25 in Plymouth, Mich. He was 80 years old.

Smock, around 1962

Smock taught and held senior administrative positions at UM-Dearborn for 27 years and retired in 1990. He joined UM-Dearborn as assistant professor of sociology and director of the campus's Center for Urban Studies in 1963.

He helped develop UM-Dearborn's sociology curriculum and taught a wide variety of courses in human ecology and demography, American social classes, principles of sociology, comparative religions, and personality and society. He was promoted to associate professor in 1965 and to professor in 1968.

Smock's research focused on demography, human ecology and urban sociology, and his publications included a monthly newsletter titled "Metro Motown," as well as a textbook on human ecology.

"He was able to integrate his ongoing research interests in the area of urban studies and created a dynamic classroom environment in which students had opportunities to study the process of urbanization as that process was actually occurring," the U-M Regents noted in their memorandum naming Smock professor emeritus.

Smock was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1925, and earned his bachelor's degree from Adrian College in 1946. He worked as a social worker, Methodist minister, and research assistant before receiving his master's degree in 1953 and his doctorate in sociology in 1962 from Wayne State University.

While in graduate school, he was associate director of the Detroit Area Traffic Study, where he played a major role in planning highway development in the Detroit area.
In addition to his teaching and research, Smock held major administrative positions at UM-Dearborn as the campus made the transition during the late 1960s and early 1970s from a two-year "senior college" enrolling a few hundred students to a comprehensive university enrolling thousands.

"He was charged with the task of overseeing the academic development of the campus as it began this expansion," the Regents noted. "In this and other administrative assignments, Professor Smock was always willing to serve when needed, giving concrete evidence of his loyalty, resourcefulness and commitment to the campus.

Smock also served as chair of the Department of Behavioral Sciences, and at the time of his retirement was acting director of the Office of Institutional Research.
"My father was a man of intelligence, imagination, and curiosity," according to his son, Adam Smock. "In his personal writings, with the trained mind of a sociologist, he referred to himself as 'a repository of a revelation of life of middle-class, middle-American men in the late 20th century.' Yet his life was anything but middling."

Smock's body was donated to the U-M Medical School, his final wish, according to his son. "He spent much of his life teaching everyone around him and giving everyone the opportunity to learn," Adam said. "He continued this mission right through the very end."

Smock is survived by his wife, Frances Wilson Villeneuve, whom he met as an undergraduate at Adrian College and married 42 years later. Other survivors include a brother, Dick; children David, Mardi Black, John and Adam; stepdaughter Trisha Stock; nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by daughter Sarbeth in 1997.

A memorial service will be held in Plymouth, Mich. in June. The family is gathering thoughts, memories and stories at www.smockfiles.com/rbs. Memorial contributions can be sent to the Public Research Interest Group in Michigan at 103 E. Liberty, Suite 202, Ann Arbor MI 48104; or to the Greater Michigan chapter of the Alzheimer's Association at 20300 Civic Center, Suite 100, Southfield MI 48076.

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