Douglas Pullman | Faculty and Staff | Sociology | Faculty of Arts | UNB

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Douglas Pullman, 1921-2010

Dr. Douglas Robert Pullman, head of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology when it was formed in 1966, passed away on Oct. 1, 2010.

In his memory, the Douglas R. Pullman Prize in Sociology is awarded annually to a graduating student on the UNB Fredericton campus with a major in sociology.

Personal tributes

Deborah Harrison

In 1976 I was a PhD student at York, pursuing a dissertation on the nationalist movement in Canadian sociology - a topic that I subsequently decided was too ambitious, and abandoned. However, what is now called the Congress met at Laval that year, and I journeyed there with a tape recorder, ready to interview anyone I could find who had been a part of it. Someone suggested Dr. Pullman, based on his pioneering experience at UNB. Dr. Pullman turned out to be the first person I interviewed at the conference, and probably the first person I interviewed ever. I interviewed him in his hotel room, with his wife, who also had lots to say. Typical for me, I couldn't work the tape recorder, and I remember him being much more than gracious. He was kind and sympathetic, and put me at ease, and the interview was a down-to-earth and friendly experience. Dr. Pullman disagreed with many of his wife's interjections, so there were many laughs. We never met again, but I ever afterwards had fond memories, and enjoyed interviewing.

Barbara J. Pepperdene

Dr. Pullman was hired by the University of New Brunswick in 1951, and unlike others before him, he stayed, becoming UNB’s first permanent sociologist. I first arrived on the UNB campus in 1955 as a freshman, but did not encounter Dr. Pullman until January 1957. At that time Sociology was not offered until the second year of the Arts program, and then only for one term in combination with a term of Anthropology. I surprised some people by deciding to honour in the subject (along with honours in Anthropology, because Sociology and Anthropology was a combined program, which I then combined in a double honours with Psychology) I was at the time one of the few students interested in Sociology or Anthropology and. I believe the first honours student.

I have many memories of Dr. Pullman, first as a teacher and mentor, then as my first boss in my teaching career, and finally as a colleague. As his student, one memory stands out both for its impact and its importance to me. In my final year I took a seminar in Sociological Theory from Dr. Pullman. I was the only student, which terrified me because, unusual for a professor, Dr. Pullman was a man of few words and I had no idea how we would manage to fill up two or more hours every week. My fears were realized. Dr. Pullman could tolerate silences far longer than I could, and I scrambled to fill the gaps by asking questions. If the questions were not very good, his answer could be almost monosyllabic - “yes” or “no”, or “you should read ......”. I soon learned I would have to read not only broadly, but carefully in order to ask questions that would elicit longer responses, if only to avoid showing the extent of my ignorance by talking myself. I do not believe I have ever studied so hard in my life. Gradually I succeeded in prompting longer answers from him, and I still remember the downright glee I experienced when one of my questions prompted an hour’s lecture! It was in that seminar I learned the significance of good questions and began to develop the skill of identifying and framing them. Nothing has been more important to my academic career.

After a false start as a graduate student in Anthropology, I was at loose ends at the same time that Dr. Pullman, finally being allowed to hire assistance after teaching as many as five courses a year by himself, was left in the lurch. The person he hired decided not to accept the position. He hired me, making me his first assistant in teaching sociology. I was only one year beyond my Hons BA. Not only did he hire me but he let me teach upper level courses, including Sociological Theory. (Perhaps he considered Introductory Sociology too important to be left in the hands of a neophyte. If that was his reason, I am inclined to agree with him). That year I felt that the trust and confidence he had had in me as a student was, if anything, increased as I tackled the challenges of teaching. Trust and confidence were characteristics of his that I continued to bask in and appreciate throughout my years as a colleague. No one could ask for more.

I went off to continue graduate studies, only returning to UNB in the late 1960's. I remember the day I was hired. Following the formalities I was walking ‘down the Hill’ and encountered an English professor I regarded highly. On hearing my news, he invited my to share a coffee with him, and during our conversation warned me that there was indeed discrimination against women on the UNB campus and that I might well encounter it. My response was “Not from Dr. Pullman!” I was totally confident in that. And I was right. I continued to receive his support and the encouragement and freedom to develop my own courses, interests and style.

When students asked me what to expect from Dr. Pullman, whether those students were first years undergraduates or PhD students, my answer was the same: he is very solid and will never mislead you; he is absolutely fair; and if you do your work you do not have to worry about whether you will pass the course - you can learn a great deal from him. I know. I did. And not only about the discipline of Sociology, but about what a university is all about and what it, and its faculty, should stand for. Dr Pullman was a significant part of my academic career, from my introduction to the discipline of sociology to my maturing as a scholar and academic. I owe him a great deal and I can only hope that my own contribution to the discipline, department and university evidenced the solid base and strong values he established.

David Rehorick

Hearing of Doug Pullman's passing calls me to remember the first time that I met him. I was a newly minted Ph.D. who travelled from Grenoble, France for a job interview in Sociology at UNB. The airlines lost my luggage, and I was too green to know that one should dress appropriately for the flight just in case. If there ever was a clash of physical image, that was Doug and I when we first met. With humour and graciousness, he drove me to Zeller's to purchase a white shirt to replace the tie-dyed T-shirt that I was wearing. Then he took me to his place for a stiff drink of Scotch, dinner, and the loan of one of his ties so that I could somehow make it through the interview with the Dean of Arts the next morning. Despite the jeans, and bizarre looking apparel, I managed the morning which morphed into 33 years of teaching in the Department of Sociology. This is but one story, yet it captures something of who Doug Pullman truly was. I was surprised when I noted in his obituary that he was an avid musician--illustrative of his humbleness. I'll remember always how his support and kindness created a place where I could build a life and career in Fredericton and at UNB.

Will van den Hoonaard

Many memories of the man who helped all of us. Known for his talent in being silent in class until one of his students broke down and asked the question. Although he died at the age of 89--a "ripe old age"-- his death still conveys a deep sadness on the part of many of us for whom he opened the path of sociology. His last words at his retirement party: "I'll never read another sociology book!" He didn't have to: many of us ended up either reading or writing sociology books. A number of faculty were called "Pullman's boys," which was not intended as flattery, I believe. But he left his mark at UNB leaving a shadow whose outlines are marked even in the way the Department lives on. I have fond memories of a man who scoffed at self-aggrandisement in himself and in others. A barometer of a scholar.