Sherri Cavan

Emerita Professor of Sociology Sherri Cavan and long-time friend of the department, died at her home in the Haight-Ashbury District Saturday, Feb. 20. She was 78 years old. Cavan joined the University in 1965 and retired in 2003. 

Cavan was a respected, active and iconoclastic figure in the Sociology Department, who authored ethnographic studies of hippies ("Hippies of the Haight"), bar culture in San Francisco ("Liquor License"), the iconography surrounding Richard Nixon ("20th Century Gothic: America's Nixon") and visual culture throughout the city (she photographed and cataloged graffiti for more than 20 years). She continued publishing after her retirement, including the article "When Erving Goffman was a boy: The formative years of a sociological giant" in the journal Symbolic Interaction (February 2014, Vol. 37 Issue 1).

Always passionate about the education students received, Cavan initiated the push to embed qualitative methods in the department and championed the importance of visual sociology. She had an indelible impact on SF State's program, faculty and students. Today, even those who have never heard her name still benefit from her efforts.

In addition to being a visual sociologist, Cavan was a sculptor who created works that realized sociological insights in visual form. Her works, some of which reside in the department, are filled with humor, compassion and an unflinching comment on what it means to be human.

In recent years, Cavan fought to keep City College alive. As with all other fights she took on in her life, she fought it with strength, intelligence and a deep respect for the common good. She will be greatly missed by all who knew her.