Kurt Back, a James B. Duke professor emeritus of sociology and chair of the sociology department from 1976 to 1981, died Aug. 13 of heart failure and pneumonia. He was 79.

A native of Vienna, Back came to Duke in 1959 as an assistant professor of sociology and psychology.

He wrote or co-authored eight books, including Beyond Words: The Story of Sensitivity Training and the Encounter Movement.

Back became a full professor in 1962 and was named a James B. Duke professor in 1976; he retired in 1990.

He is survived by his wife, Mary Louise, a son and a grandson.

Scientist speaks: Jill Tarter, a top scientist at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence project, will give two talks at Duke Sept. 29.

At a 4 p.m. physics colloquium, she will discuss SETI's future and its progress on telescopes; at 8 p.m. she will give a less technical talk about SETI's attempts to detect evidence of another distant technology. Both discussions will be in room 114 of Math/Physics Building.

Tarter is director for Project Phoenix, the SETI Institute's privately funded continuation of NASA's High Resolution Microwave Survey, which was terminated by Congress in 1993.

Undergraduates can also meet Tarter at a luncheon, from 12:15 to 1:30 p.m. in room 234 of Math/Physics Building. For lunch reservations, e-mail hsg@phy.duke.edu.

Media fellows arrive: The DeWitt Wallace Center for Communications and Journalism is kicking off its visiting media fellows seminar series with a Sept. 27 talk by Lothar Fischmann, press secretary for the city of Vienna.

His lecture, "Knowledge-Base Vienna: An Information Hub for Central and Eastern Europe," will begin at 10 a.m. in room 150 of the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy.

The first group of fall 1999 media fellows arrived at Duke Sept. 13. The group, whose members include editors, writers and broadcasters from Germany, Japan, Kosovo, Poland and the United States, will be available for social and recreational activities, as well as speeches to student groups.

United Way begins drive: The Duke-United Way Partnership will begin its drive to raise $850,000 starting Sept. 24. Proceeds from the annual fund-raiser will benefit about 300,000 children, youth, families and seniors through more than 200 health and human services programs serving Durham, Orange and Wake counties.

The United Way set its 1999 goal for the Triangle at $24 million.

Lecture series planned: The "Engaging Faculty" lecture series will kick off Sept. 23 with a talk by John Hope Franklin, James B. Duke professor emeritus of history, and his co-author Loren Schweninger, professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

The pair will discuss the findings of their book, Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation, 1790-1860. In writing the book, Franklin and Schweninger examined 2,000 runaway slave notices, as well as many letters, court documents and legislative petitions. The talk will be from 5 to 6 p.m. in the Rare Book Room in Perkins Library and will include a question-and-answer session.

The lecture series is designed to be an informal, interdisciplinary medium in which the public can interact with Duke's leading scholars. Other lecturers will include:

  • Henry Petroski, Aleksandar S. Vesic professor of civil engineering and professor of history, who will speak Nov. 24;

  • Gerda Lerner, professor emeritus of history at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and a visiting professor at Duke, who will lecture Feb. 3;

  • Orrin Pilkey, James B. Duke professor emeritus of geology, who will speak March 30.

United Way begins drive:

The Duke-United Way Partnership will begin its drive to raise $850,000 starting Monday, Sept. 24. Proceeds from the annual fund-raiser will benefit about 300,000 children, youth, families and seniors through more than 200 health and human services programs serving Durham, Orange and Wake counties. The United Way set its 1999 goal for the Triangle at $24 million.