Ira L. Reiss, Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the UMN and well known author, became NCFR’s 37th President in 1979. Ira’s autobiography can be found in Pioneering Paths in the Study of Families, Editor: Suzanne K. Steinmetz & Gary Peterson, Haworth Press, 2001; pp 331-365. He was born in New York but his family moved to Scranton, PA in the 1930s where Ira attended grade and high school. His experiences in Scranton and in the army during WW II led him to the study of sexuality. He graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in Business Administration, expecting that he would join his father in the clothing manufacturing business. This did not work out and he left to attend graduate school at Pennsylvania State University where he went on to earn a Masters and Ph.D. in sociology with theory construction as a major thrust and cultural anthropology and philosophy of ethics as minors. Jessie Bernard was one of his mentors. For some of his doctoral work he attended Columbia U. to expand his perspective with Robert K. Merton, Herbert Hyman, John Herman Randall Jr. and others. He received his Ph.D. in 1953 and went to teach at Bowdoin College in Maine--a college that Alfred Kinsey had graduated from back in 1916. He married Harriet Eisman two years later, and began his teaching at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA. It was there that he started his pioneering work exploring the determinants of premarital sexual permissive standards which led to his "Autonomy Theory of Premarital Sexuality" developed in his 1960 and 1967 books. He also was one of the 46 professionals who helped Albert Ellis establish the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS) and he was a charter member in the founding of the International Academy of Sex Research.. He taught at Bard College and the University of Iowa before moving In 1969 to the University of Minnesota to become sociology professor and director of the UMN Family Study Center – replacing Reuben Hill as director. The two became close friends and collaborators in their 1979 two volume book on family theory together with Ivan Nye and Wesley Burr. The first edition of Reiss's very popular family textbook appeared in 1971 and helped expand the understanding of issues related to premarital, marital and extramarital sexuality in future family textbooks. Reiss has been a prolific author and theorist. In his 1986 book he developed his "Cross Cultural Linkage Theory" to explain the social nature of sexuality . He tackled tough societal problems such as HIV/AIDS, rape, teenage pregnancy and child sexual abuse and developed his "Sexual Pluralism Ethics" theory to explain the much lower rate of these problems in Western Europe in his 1990, 1997 books. His wife, Harriet, was a co-author on these two books and was his key editor and advisor on all his books. Reiss did lead a Minnesota Health Department legislative committee on sexual health during Arne Carlson’s governorship. His latest book was published in 2006 and presented his ideas about changes in sexual science. His current writing (2013) concerns the relationship between science and values, power and advocacy. He and his wife Harriet and their children and grandchildren reside in Minneapolis.
For additional information on his work see his website-- https://sites.google.com/a/umn.edu/reiss/