Dr. Doris R. Entwisle, a professor of sociology and engineering studies at the Johns Hopkins University for nearly half a century and a pioneer in the field of the sociology of education, died Tuesday of cancer at her Towson home. She was 89.
"Doris exemplified dignity and was extremely personal. She was a very warm person but did not wear that on her sleeve," said Dr. Karl L. Alexander, who collaborated with Dr. Entwisle on the Beginning School Study, which examined the personal and educational development of about 800 city first-graders over 25 years.
"She always set high standards when it came to her professional posture. Doris was always a role model for our faculty and students," said Dr. Alexander, chairman of the Hopkins sociology department.
The daughter of Charles E. Roberts, a Westinghouse Electric Corp. engineer, and Helen MacMenigall Roberts, a homemaker, the former Doris Helen Roberts was born in Wilbraham, Mass., and raised in Springfield, Mass., where she graduated in 1940 from Springfield High School.
She was 16 when she began her college studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in 1945. A year later, she earned a master's degree from Brown University.
After marrying George Entwisle in 1946, the couple settled in Boston, where she worked while her husband completed his medical education.
During this time, she worked closely with Dr. Charles Frederick Mosteller, a statistician and founding chairman of Harvard University's statistics department who was the father of applying statistics in analyzing a wide variety of subjects.
In 1956, Dr. Entwisle and her husband moved to Baltimore. In 1960, she earned her doctorate in social psychology from Johns Hopkins. She also did post-doctoral work as a fellow of the Social Science Research Council.
Dr. Entwisle joined Hopkins in 1964 as a professor of social relations and electrical engineering. Her work centered on development of courses related to socialization, especially of language.
She also did work on sociological influences that affect development of language and the impact on the study of reading problems.
In addition to her work at Hopkins, she was named editor in 1975 of Sociology of Education, a publication of the American Sociological Association.
In 1976, she was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship, which supported her research in the sociology of human development.
Dr. Entwisle received a $80,000 grant in 1979 from the National Institute of Child Health and Development that allowed her to study the social and psychological effects of births by cesarean section.
Dr. Entwisle concluded in a preliminary study, she told The Baltimore Sun in 1979, that "in the first six weeks after delivery, mothers [who delivered by cesarean section] showed more depression and infants cried more than those who delivered normally."
"When she was named editor of Sociology of Education, she asked me to be her deputy editor, and that's when we formed a bond of sorts," recalled Dr. Alexander. "When her editorship ended in 1979, we started discussing a collaborative project, and that was the beginning of the Beginning School Study, which was about how children adjusted to learning."
In 1982, Drs. Entwisle and Alexander launched their long-range study of 790 first-graders who were randomly selected from 20 Baltimore public schools.
They observed and studied the students' personal as well as educational development, and they arrived at several remarkable conclusions.
Of the original 790 students, nearly 40 percent at some point during their academic careers had been held back, usually during their early years. They also concluded that almost 50 percent stayed in city public schools while there were 100 dropouts.
"We were interested in early childhood development with the launching of their schooling," said Dr. Alexander. "We were also interested in the consequences of the first grade which spilled over into the second."
Drs. Entwisle and Alexander continued to track their students long after they were out of school.