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Driver, Edwin D.

Just 23 years old in the fall 1948, Edwin Douglas Driver was hired by the Sociology Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, becoming the first person of non-European descent to join the faculty and, along with Ruby Pernell of the University of Minnesota, one of the first two African Americans hired onto the faculty of a state flagship university in the twentieth century.[1]

Born in Gloucester, Virginia, and raised primarily in Philadelphia, Driver received his BA from Temple University and MA from the University of Pennsylvania (1953) and was progressing toward his doctorate at Penn while working at Philadelphia's Department of Public Assistance.[2] At Penn, Driver met Frank Hankins, a visiting professor and Head of Sociology at Smith College, who arranged for Driver to interview for a position at Smith. When that fell failed to materialize, Driver was directed to an opening in the tiny Sociology Department at UMass.

One of 64 additions to the faculty that fall, Driver's appointment as Instructor coincided with the surge of veterans on campus as the end of the Second World War and the concomitant expansion of the curriculum to meet the changing interests of the students. He was, for many years, the only African American. “It was a very different time,” he noted fifty years later. “There was an understanding, an expectation, that black professors could teach only at black colleges. But I rejected that.”[3]

Despite a heavy teaching load, Driver continued toward his doctorate at Penn, completing his degree in 1956 for Administrative Control of Deviant Conduct of Physicians in New York and Massachusetts, two years after his promoting to Assistant Professor. His career in sociology blossomed. Beginning as a specialist in the sociology of mental health, he pursued research interests in criminology, demography, urbanization, and comparative sociology, and by the later 1950s, he developed a specialty in South Asia, particularly central and south India. The recipient of a Danforth Fellowship and several Fulbrights, he held visiting appointments at several institutions, including the University of Wisconsin Madison, the University of Minnesota, Brandeis, UCLA, Hawaii, the University of Vermont, and the University of Madras. Among his many publications were Differential fertility in Central India (1963), The sociology and anthropology of mental illness: a reference guide (1965), W. E. B. Du Bois on sociology and the Black community (edited with his colleague Dan S. Green, 1978), and Social class in urban India: essays on cognitions and structures (edited with wife Aloo E. Driver, 1987).

He served as a United Nations Senior Advisor to the Iranian government (1977), a consultant to the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the OECD (Paris), and teh Massachusetts Department of Mental Health.

Driver spent his entire career at UMass Amherst, earning emeritus status upon his retirement in 1987.

During Driver's years at UMass, he witnessed a slow expansion in the percentage of African Americans on campus, although as late as 1967 when future Chancellor Randolph Bromery, a geologist, was hired as only the sixth African American faculty member, there were only 36 African American students in a population of nearly 17,000. After the assassination of Martin Luther King pushed the university to respond to lack of representation, Driver became one of the founders of the Committee for the Collegiate Education of Black Students (CCEBS)

Driver married Aloo Jhabvala (1927-2014), a native of Mumbai, India, while she was studying at Smith College. A sociologist like her husband, and the child of an academic family, Aloo Driver received her doctorate from Columbia and began her career at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is noted for having introduced the first Asian language course to the university, Hindi, in 1962, but left UMass for American International College in 1969. The Drivers had three children, who have followed in academic distinction.


1. JBHE Chronology of Major Landmarks in the Progress of African Americans in Higher Education, Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. Accessed June 5, 2016.

2. Collegian profile no. 31, Massachusetts Daily Collegian 1949 Dec. 8.

3. “Edwin Driver notes increase in minority presence on campus,” Daily Hampshire Gazette 1998 Nov. 6.

d/driver-edwin-d.1465200733.txt.gz · Last modified: 2016/06/06 04:12 by rscox
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