In Honor of My Textbook Co-Author Keith A. Roberts

On December 31st, I submitted the revised manuscript for the 7th edition of Religion in Sociological Perspective. I am Keith Roberts’ co-author on this textbook.

Keith brought me in to do the revisions for the 5th edition over a decade ago. This was wonderful for me because I had always wanted to do a textbook, but the prospect of writing one from scratch was daunting. Through 2 revisions, I was able to build on what Keith started and learn from him in the process.

Unfortunately, Keith died in July 2018. What a loss.

When I submitted the manuscript at the end of 2019, it was overdue. The publisher, SAGE, wanted it available for fall 2018, but with Keith battling cancer beginning in 2016, I couldn’t motivate myself to work it. When he died, I wanted nothing to do with it.

I actually asked 2 younger colleagues if they would come on as a 3rd author. Thankfully, they both said “no” (or perhaps “hell no”). Working on the revision has become a way for me to honor Keith Roberts’ legacy and contributions to the discipline of sociology.

RSP Book CoverKeith and I first met on the editorial board of the journal Teaching Sociology. His profound commitment to teaching and learning and professional service were evident then. Shortly thereafter he won the American Sociological Association’s Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award.

The same year our 1st co-authored edition of Religion in Sociological Perspective was published, 2012, Keith won the J. Milton Yinger Award for Distinguished Lifetime Career in Sociology by the North Central Sociological Association, which was appropriate because Yinger profoundly shaped his thinking about religion

Also at the start of our collaboration Keith had co-founded a teaching/professional development award program with SAGE Publications that provides funds for grad students & jr faculty to attend the ASA Sec on Teaching & Learning pre-ASA workshop each year. The award is funded by a portion of royalties given by Sage textbook authors. It is now known as the SAGE Publishing Keith Roberts Teaching Innovations Award.

Keith was not only a wonderful citizen of our profession but also of his own college. Many of us strongly connected to our professional associations often neglect this work. He served 15 yrs(!) as department chair and was also a Faculty Marshall and Parliamentarian at Hanover College.

Keith thought globally and acted locally. But he also acted globally for social justice as part of human rights delegations to Central & South America. He had hoped to do more of this work in his “retirement,” which sadly did not last long enough.

Keith remained a deep thinker and active learner to the very end, authoring a book subtitled A Theologically Trained Sociologist Reflects on Living Meaningfully with Cancer. It was published just months before his death.

I can’t say that I knew Keith Roberts well. I wish I had the chance to know him better. But by all accounts he was a good human being.

So while I hope my professional colleagues think the 7th edition of Religion in Sociological Perspective reflects well on our field, I hope even more that Keith Roberts is proud of my effort to keep his considerable legacy alive.