Mady and David Segal: A Military Match


Mady, AM’67, PhD’73 (Sociology) and David Segal, AM’63, PhD’67 (Sociology) have been married for almost 50 years, their work and home lives intricately intertwined.

Both are prominent military sociologists who have made innumerable profound contributions to teaching, research, public policy, and military education. They have published prolifically, both together and individually, on myriad topics affecting the US armed forces. Mady’s research interests involve military personnel issues, including families, women in the armed forces, gender, and race. David’s focus is on recruiting, military organization, leadership, civil-military relations, and peacekeeping missions.

As two of the top experts in their field, they have had experiences, special appointments, memberships, and responsibilities that are uncommon for most sociologists. Both have been asked to testify before congress on several occasions. They contributed research support to the Obama administration’s Joining Forces program for military families and veteran employment, and serve on the Army Education Advisory Committee. In 2012, President Obama appointed David to the Selective Service Board. In 1996, Mady was selected by President Clinton to serve on the Board of Visitors at West Point, and both spent a year as distinguished visiting professors at the famous military academy.

Their journey together began in 1965 in the Department of Sociology at UChicago. David was a third year PhD student when Mady visited the Department as a college senior and prospective graduate student. Her unique double major in sociology and mathematics afforded her the opportunity to choose among several top sociology departments. “For both of us, a major attraction to Chicago was the quality of the social sciences faculty," David explains. “They were names we definitely knew.”

In fact, during Mady’s initial visit, David took her to breakfast at Gordon’s, where they ran into Hannah Arendt, a famous and controversial political theorist and professor at the University in the Committee on Social Thought between 1963 and 1967. Mady was impressed as she watched her new friend exchange pleasantries with this famous contemporary philosopher. She accepted a three-year research fellowship that ultimately shaped the course of their professional and personal lives.

Although neither Mady nor David focused on the military until after graduate school, their mentor, and founder of the field of military sociology, played a central role in fanning their curiosity in the subject. “We both consider ourselves protégés of Morris Janowitz,” PhD ’48 (Sociology) says Mady. At Janowitz’s request, David wrote a single paper on the role of West Point in army leadership while he was in graduate school. It became his first sociological journal publication.

In 1966 David accepted a faculty position at the University of Michigan, where he conducted research on civil-military relations. Mady moved with David to Ann Arbor and taught statistics, social psychology, and family courses at Eastern Michigan University.

In 1973, the military was transitioning to an all-volunteer force and recognized the need for assistance from the social sciences to ease the conversion. At the request of the Army Research Institute (ARI), Mady and David took leaves of absence from their academic positions to work for the government in Washington DC.

Their time at ARI solidified their positions as experts in the military sociology field. They soon realized, Mady a bit more quickly than David, that they preferred an academic environment, and both ultimately joined the faculty at the University of Maryland. Together and with their colleagues, they built the leading military sociology program in the country. They continued to collaborate with the ARI, and at the request of the Institute, established the University of Maryland Center for Research on Military Organization.

David retired over a year ago but is still professionally involved at Maryland and with the military. Mady retired six years ago. David jokes, “She has failed at retirement,” but he supposes he has failed at it too. They can’t help but lend their extensive knowledge and experience to help shape the direction of their field and public policy. Mady is also writing fiction, with her first short story recently published in a volume of short stories, Beach Nights.

Looking back on their long and productive research careers, they seem most proud of their applied research. “While it doesn’t get as much credit in the academic world, it makes a world of difference for a lot of people,” says Mady. And David is quick to add, “Morris Janowitz maintained that there is no difference between basic and applied research in this field.”

But, when asked what is their most important contribution to their field, without hesitation, the answer is their students. “We are very proud of our students. They truly are our legacy. We have been blessed to work with smart, hardworking, and just wonderful people,” says Mady.

As Mady and David’s careers wind down, their students have big shoes to fill—and so far, they are filling them just fine. Of the more than 60 masters and PhD candidates they have advised, many have already made significant impacts and worked hard to advance the field. Their ranks include equal numbers of military officers and civilians, men and women. Two have directed the sociology program at West Point and one currently directs the leadership program there. Two have headed the leadership department at the Naval Academy and two serve on the sociology faculty at the Air Force Academy, one of whom is a UChicago alumna. One serves on the research staff of the secretary of defense. Another graduate is credited with planning the capture of Saddam Hussein, while still another is largely responsible for legislation improving the working conditions of American military women serving in Saudi Arabia. Their contributions are notable and too many to list, but the Segals do so with ease and pride.

Even now, after so much success, Mady and David have a very humble way about them. They are quick to credit their University of Chicago mentor, Morris Janowitz, for the direction of their careers and of their field in general. David remarks, “The Chicago tradition of military sociology really does dominate the field, even today, after so many years.” Like their mentor, Mady and David’s influence will be evident for generations to come, not only in the literature and in the lives of people who were touched by their work, but through their students, who carry on their tradition of excellence.