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Julie Honnold, a VCU sociology professor for nearly 50 years, retires

Longtime VCU professor Julie Honnold supported countless faculty in their research endeavors through her work at VCU’s Survey and Evaluation Research Laboratory.
julie honnold

After serving on Virginia Commonwealth University’s faculty for 46 years, Julie Honnold, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Sociology in the College of Humanities and Sciences, retired July 1.

Honnold came to VCU in 1974 and her primary research activities have been conducted as a methodologist and data analyst with the VCU Survey and Evaluation Research Laboratory, which assists faculty in carrying out their research objectives, as well as providing research and evaluation services to state and local agencies, nonprofit and academic units.

Her work with the research laboratory has focused extensively on policy-related projects in the areas of sexuality, youth risk behavior and HIV/AIDS. In addition, Honnold frequently worked with colleagues in the Department of Sociology as a data analyst on joint projects.

Jennifer Johnson, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Sociology, said Honnold is a “living legend” who will continue to make valuable contributions as an emeritus professor.

“When asked to describe Dr. Julie Honnold, her colleagues use words like ‘dedicated teacher,’ ‘highly skilled researcher,’ ‘amazing mentor’ and ‘devoted and passionate,’” Johnson said. “As her friend and colleague for over 15 years, and former student many years prior, I know she is indeed all these things and more. Julie has been quietly working in service to VCU communities for over 46 years through diligent, high quality and committed efforts.”

Honnold has never been one to promote herself or her work above others, Johnson said, but has always, in her quiet way, served many and been steadfast in her commitment to the Department of Sociology, fellow faculty members and students.

“Had it not been for Julie, who stepped up without hesitation to do the big and small work needed to develop and grow an academic department, Sociology would not be what it is today,” Johnson said. “She is the institutional memory of the department, always serving with gusto and enthusiasm — never silencing and always building.”

Looking back on her time at VCU, Honnold said an early and favorite memory was serving as faculty adviser to the sociology honor society, Alpha Kappa Delta.

“As a student-run organization, AKD somehow managed over a period of years during the 1970s to host a professional conference attended chiefly by undergraduate students, graduate students and early career faculty members from the mid-Atlantic region,” she said. “We held all of the conference events in the Jefferson Hotel, which by that time had lost its former glamour and was questionably maintained. (That's the only way we could afford the hotel.) I have fond memories of attending the banquet and listening to well-known keynote speakers while contemplating the flaking, murky green paint on the walls. The event was a lot of work, but very much fun!”

"Had it not been for Julie, who stepped up without hesitation to do the big and small work needed to develop and grow an academic department, Sociology would not be what it is today. She is the institutional memory of the department."

While she is retiring from VCU’s faculty, Honnold said she does not plan to step away entirely.

“I hope I never fully step back,” she said. “I have been associated with the university for so long that it's not possible for me to remain unengaged for a long period of time. I discovered quite late in my career, only about six or seven years ago, that I liked academic planning and development work. Perhaps I will be able to pursue that at some point. I also plan to teach occasionally.”

Thinking back on her time at the university, Honnold is struck by how much things have changed.

“I joined the university six years after its founding in 1968. There have been many physical changes,” she said. “For example, when I came, Shafer Court (the short piece between Franklin Street and the library) was still an actual street; there was no VCU compass, because Park Avenue was still open to traffic. What we now think of as the ‘old’ library had just opened, and the Student Commons had not yet entered the planning stage. I taught only in Hibbs or the Business Building (now Harris Hall).”

One thing that hasn’t changed, she said, is VCU’s emphasis on admitting and supporting motivated, promising students who, for various reasons, have not had the educational opportunities of the more privileged.

For her former students, Honnold said she hopes their education at VCU has provided them with new lenses to see the world.

“Much of my teaching experience has been in the areas of research methods and quantitative data analysis. I hope at least some of my students have discovered practical applications of these skills and have been involved in active social-change projects,” she said. “If not practical applications, I hope all of my students have become sophisticated consumers of social scientific research reported in the mass media. We need their collective expertise and guidance.”

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