I occasionally run into stories about famous people who were sociology majors in college (these are often professional athletes) and found another example yesterday: President Ronald Reagan was a sociology and economics major. And this came from an unlikely source, Newt Gingrich, who was speaking at Reagan’s alma mater, Eureka College:
Gingrich, who announced last week he is seeking the GOP nomination for president in 2012, braved rain and wind to speak to about 140 students at Eureka College in western Illinois.
The former House speaker said the small liberal arts college was one of the most influential institutions of the late 20th century because of its ties with Reagan. The 40th president graduated from the school in 1932.
“The collapse of the Soviet Union began here in 1928,” he said to audience members. “The resurrection of general economics and the development of American economic growth and jobs for 25 years began here when Dutch Reagan took a degree in economics and sociology.”
I had never heard this before so I did a little digging into this:
-The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Foundation says Reagan was an economics major: “Ronald Reagan officially majored in Economics at Eureka College, but unofficially minored in extra-curricular activities.”
-The Reagan portal for Eureka College gives a lengthier explanation:
Academically, Reagan’s major area of study was Economics and Sociology in which he received his degree in 1932. Somehow, blinded by the lights of Hollywood, this academic element has been overshadowed in history, yet, as U.S. President, it had a powerful intellectual impact on Reagan. Eureka College taught Economics and Sociology as a joint degree purposefully as a pure reflection of the College’s goals reflecting “the mutual development of intellect and character” or Economic=Money and Sociology=People or How Money Effects People. The servant leadership focus of the College founders still pervaded the culture and curriculum of Eureka College.
Several thoughts quickly come to mind:
1. Would it be bad for Reagan, probably the foremost conservative in the late 20th century, to be known as someone who studied sociology as opposed to economics? (I am thinking of the Presidential Library emphasis on economics while Eureka explains how the two disciplines were combined.)
2. Would it be possible anywhere these days to have a joint major in economics and sociology? These two often seem to be placed at opposite poles of thought.
3. It strikes me that having a former US President as an alum could be a huge boon for a small college. However, it does mean that Newt Gingrich wanted to visit…