Don’t feel no ways tired

October 17th, 2011


We lost another trailblazer. Last Sunday University of Oregon sociology professor Lawrence Carter died here in Eugene at the age of 68. In the 1980s Prof. Carter helped develop the Lee-Carter model for predicting demographic trends—a model that is still used by the Census Bureau and others in the U.S. and beyond.

The national and local media attention given to his passing is some indication of the importance and preeminence of his scholarship. The Register-Guard has a nice story about his life, including his leadership in Eugene and Springfield beyond his scholarly work. He helped show our community a way forward when others saw only obstacles.

The University of Oregon family reaches out to Prof. Carter’s family in this difficult time. We remember and appreciate a colleague who changed his academic field, improved how our and other governments make critical decisions, and made our community a better place to live.



I often tell students—particularly when their University of Oregon experience begins at convocation and is celebrated at commencement—to never pass up an opportunity to thank the people who helped them along the way. Such thanks go to family members, teachers, mentors, and others who offered encouragement and support.
We should also thank the trailblazers who made our collective path easier. Derrick Bell was one such person. When he was named dean of the University of Oregon School of Law in 1980, he was one of the first African-American deans of a law school at a university that was not historically Black. He served as dean from 1980 to 1985, which coincidentally is exactly the same period as Bob Berdahl’s tenure as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
I am told that Derrick Bell’s tenure here was electrifying. He blazed a path right here that the entire nation could follow. When he left the UO to go to Harvard Law School, Derrick Bell left colleagues and a community that remember him still. We also remember his late spouse, Jewel Bell, in whose honor the university annually awards a scholarship.
You may be interested in reading the excellent New York Times obituary, listening to the story on NPR, and this message from our Law School. As mentioned in the NPR story, Derrick Bell was inspired by the gospel song “Don’t Feel No Ways Tired.” After listening to the song I can understand why.
We’re not done, we’re not sick, and we’re not tired. Together, we’ll keep making the university, our community and the world better. We’ll do so because our students, faculty, staff and alumni propel us towards a hopeful future. And our path is easier because of people like Derrick Bell.
And so I say, thank you.

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