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Nathan Joseph, Class of 1939

Nathan Joseph, Associate Professor at Lehman College, City University of New York, died November, 2010 at the age of 88 after a long illness.
Nat was born and educated in New York; he ended his career teaching at one of New York’s colleges. He was a graduate of Townsend Harris High School (one of the city’s four elite high schools), a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of City College, and received his doctorate from Columbia University. Upon graduation from City College in 1943 he was drafted during WWII and served in the Pacific in an Army stevedore outfit. Although slight of build and far from the stereotypical image of a longshoreman, he attributed his assignment to the fact that the Army thought a college graduate was especially qualified to keep track of all the paperwork of a stevedore company. He also liked to tell the story of how he “rode the hook” between the holds of ships and piers.

His professional career falls into two overlapping parts. In the early fifties, he was a study director at the Bureau of Social Science Research at American University in Washington, DC; a researcher at the Visiting Nurse Service of New York from 1956-1960. He was the co-author of the 1961 report of that research, “Educating Expectant Parents.” In 1962 he was a consultant to the Research Department of IBM. Also in the early sixties he taught at Brooklyn College and Adelphi University. In 1967, he received an appointment at Hunter College. The following year, the Hunter College campus in the Bronx, which for years had been offering a full four-year curriculum, became Lehman College. Nat, like most of the Bronx faculty, elected to remain with the new independent college. He retired in 1989.

It was during his years at Lehman that Nat produced his two path-breaking research works. The first, published in the American Journal of Sociology in 1972, “Uniforms: A Study in Social Interaction,” was co-authored with Nat as the lead author. The second was Uniforms and Nonuniforms: Communication Through Clothing (Greenwood 1986). Both are must reads for anyone interested in the sociology of clothing. A final work, “Flags: Anatomy and Dynamics,” was on submission to a publisher at his death.

Nat was a quiet, modest man who was admired by his colleagues for his meticulous scholarship; a range of knowledge far beyond his own discipline; and, last but not least, his wit. During even the most heated departmental debates his quiet voice and sensible, witty comments more often than not carried the day. He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Elaine Joseph.