Ivar E. Berg, professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, died on January 1. He was 86 years old.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, he earned his AB with high honors in political science at Colgate University in 1954. He was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow and a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Oslo from 1954 to 1955, then earned his doctorate at Harvard University in 1959. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps, resigning as a major in 1965.
Dr. Berg taught at Columbia University and Vanderbilt University before joining the Penn faculty. He chaired Penn’s department of sociology (1979–1983) and served as dean of the College (1984-1989) and dean of Social Sciences (1989-1991). He helped to create Penn’s general requirement program and was said to be the only full-time Penn faculty member who brought all of his seminar classes to his home for dinner.
Dr. Berg was part of Penn’s residential system for many years. He served as the faculty fellow in Ware College House (1984-1986). In 1994, he became head faculty resident of Butcher/Speakman/Class of 1928, a position that was transformed into the faculty mastership of Goldberg College House when the College House system was launched in 1998. He and his wife, Associate Master Calli Berg, were famous for their weekly seminars and dinners held in their home. He stepped down as faculty master in 2000 (Almanac January 18, 2000).
He also served as chair of the Affirmative Action Council (Almanac October 12, 1982), director of the Program for Revitalizing Undergraduate Social Science Education (Almanac October 11, 1988), and at-large member of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee (Almanac January 21, 1997).
Dr. Berg received the Ira Abrams Award for Excellence in Undergraduate and Graduate Teaching (Almanac April 24, 2001). He retired from Penn and took emeritus status in 2009.
Dr. Berg made important contributions to the study of higher education, labor markets and industrial sociology. His classic book, Education and Jobs: The Great Training Robbery (1970) cast doubt on economists’ assertions that people with more education earn more because they are more skilled and productive; instead, employers frequently hire people to work in jobs that do not make use of their education. His book played a major role in a landmark civil rights decision by the US Supreme Court, Griggs vs. Duke Power Company (1971), and was credited with providing the basis of the theory of market signaling.
Among his many honors, he was elected a fellow of the International Academy of Management, which cited him as “one of the seminal figures in the sociological study of labor markets and the founder of economic sociology.”
Dr. Berg is survived by his wife, Sharon (Calli); a son and daughter-in-law, Geoffrey and Amy; and stepsons Jim Smallwood (Catta Keith) and Tim Smallwood (Staci Smallwood).