Mel Pollner Eulogies
Mel Pollner

November 9, 2007
Peter R. Ibarra

I first came to know Mel when I was a graduate student at UC Santa Cruz, in the late 1980s. I was working on a project on social constructionism with my mentor, John Kitsuse, and Mel's work on "labeling theory" was essential to our formulation; he had also sent John a copy of the manuscript for Mundane Reason, and we had been talking about its implications for social constructionist theorizing. I had virtually memorized his two essays on labeling theory, pored over the manuscript, and was in awe of his brilliant mind. He was coming to campus to give a colloquium and John suggested I should have lunch with the two of them. I was intimidated. "Mel Pollner? THE Melvin Pollner?" John replied, "Don't worry. He's a really nice and funny guy." I was incredulous, how could someone so visionary be a nice and funny guy? How could a man with such a mind have the patience to sit with the likes of me?

In fact, of course, John was exactly right. I discovered Mel to be a wonderful man, the very epitome of what a scholar and colleague should be, a man whose sense of humor was profound, instructive, and touching. He struck me then, and struck me later when I ventured out to UCLA's Sociology Dept in the 1990s, to be deeply appreciative of the subtleties and intricacies in how people go about understanding their world. Even in informal conversations, Mel had a knack for pointing out small but surprising things, thus it was always a delight to have an encounter with him. I experienced a kind of glow after an encounter with Mel, perhaps because I would find myself thinking, Yes, there's a reason sociologists are needed: to point out to others that which is unnoticed.

I am truly saddened by Mel's death and join others in mourning the loss of this gifted man.