In Memoriam: Robert C. Atchley, Miami faculty and leader in social gerontology

Robert Robert Atchley, professor emeritus of sociology and anthropology and former director of Miami University’s Scripps Gerontology Center, died Nov. 13 at age 79.

Atchley began teaching at Miami in 1966, became director of the Scripps Gerontology Center in 1974, and was named Distinguished Professor of Gerontology in 1986. He retired in 1998 to take a position as chair of the gerontology department at Naropa University in Colorado.

He was a key figure in the field of social gerontology for more than 40 years and is author of the best-selling text Social Forces and Aging, which was republished in 10 editions. He is author of over 100 articles and book chapters in the social gerontology literature and more than a dozen books and research monographs, including Understanding American Society (1970), The Sociology of Retirement (1976), Aging: Continuity and Change (1987).

During Atchley’s early years as director of Scripps, the U.S. Administration on Aging designated the Scripps Gerontology Center as one of only seven multidisciplinary centers on aging. It became a leader in the field of gerontology.

“The national renown of Miami University’s educational programs in gerontology and the strong research profile of the Scripps Gerontology Center were built on Bob Atchley’s vision and leadership,” said Suzanne Kunkel, University Distinguished Professor of Gerontology and director of the Scripps Gerontology Center. “He will be missed and gratefully remembered by several generations of students and colleagues at Miami and far beyond.”

Atchley was president of the 10,000-member American Society on Aging from 1988 to 1990 and served in numerous leadership positions in the Gerontological Society of America and the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education. He was associate editor of the Encyclopedia of Gerontology and founding editor of the journal Contemporary Gerontology. Atchley also served on the board of directors for the Spiritual Eldering Institute and as faculty of the American Institute on Financial Gerontology.

He has received more than a dozen awards for his scholarship, teaching and professional service in the field of aging. A 1961 Miami alumnus, Atchley received the Miami University Alumni Association’s Distinguished Achievement Medal in 1989, in recognition of reaching the pinnacle in his field.

Atchley is survived by his wife, Sheila Miller Atchley, also a well-known gerontologist and professor emerita at Miami, children Christopher Atchley, Melissa Atchley and Christopher Miller and their families, and other family and friends.  

No information on a service is available.