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Retiree tribute: Professor David Redburn

Last updated September 16, 2013

By News administrator

DAVID REDBURN came to Furman in 1990 with a strong background in the fields of gerontology and demography. He did his undergraduate work at North Carolina State before journeying to the University of Utah for his doctorate. During his 20-plus years at Furman he twice served as chair of the sociology department, and for several years he was secretary/treasurer of the Southern Demographic Association.

Two things stand out in regard to David’s contributions to Furman. For many years he taught a two-semester methods sequence that guided our majors in the development of original research papers. These projects often led to presentations by the students at regional conferences, and the skills developed in these classes helped many of our majors succeed at top graduate programs and non-academic research positions.

David’s classes were often interdisciplinary in nature, and he forged important connections between the sociology department and the departments of economics and earth and environmental sciences. To recognize his service to Furman and to the department, the Redburn Award was established for the graduating sociology major who best exemplifies outstanding academic promise, leadership and service.

Much of David’s research focused on social inequality. In addition, he studied the concept of social capital — how the quality of one’s social networks contributes to economic success, and how the nature of neighborhoods in which one resides promotes trust among residents and affects quality of life.

It’s safe to say, however, that one of his major interests was, in his words, “cruising sailors.” He and his spouse, Deb, spent many summers on a boat, sailing in the Caribbean or along both coasts of the United States — or even in the Greek Isles with longtime friends Bob and Mickey Fray from the mathematics department.

Over time the Redburns met many couples who lived abroad and cruised their boats either full- or part-time. This social group had not been studied until David presented a paper about it at the Southern Sociological Society meetings in 2007. Our understanding is that David and Deb plan to spend as much of their retirement as possible in further exploration of this topic — and lifestyle!


The author, a 1974 graduate, is chair of the sociology department.

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