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In Memoriam -- Peter Kollock

Peter KollockPeter Kollock, 49, a professor in the Department of Sociology, was killed Saturday, Jan. 10, in a motorcycle accident near his home in Calabasas. Trained as a social psychologist in experimental methods, he was an exceptional teacher who provided his students with the analytical tools and life wisdom to reach new levels of personal and social understanding.

A native of Zaragoza, Spain, he graduated from the University of Washington and spent his entire academic career at UCLA, coming here in 1989. He studied personal relations through the theory of social exchange, which models how people rationally negotiate their relations with each other. His research examined factors that encourage or discourage the emergence of cooperation, community and trade in situations where group members can gain by cooperating, but also are tempted to behave selfishly.

In 1993, he co-edited with Jodi O’Brien the first of several editions of "The Production of Reality: Essays and Readings in Social Psychology," a widely read volume on how people make sense of the ordinary world. He then used social psychological theories to explore how people organize their relations in cyber-communities, culminating in a volume edited with former student Marc Smith. "Communities in Cyberspace" remains a major reference on the topic. In recent years, he studied the social dynamics of markets, especially derivative and futures markets.

Professor Kollock was also an exceptional teacher who integrated the theoretical rigor of rational choice theory with the existential mindfulness of Zen Buddhism. His charisma in the classroom, love of learning and personal centeredness earned numerous teaching awards, including the Luckman Distinguished Teaching Award and the Eby Award for the Art of Teaching. One former student said of his teaching: “A lecture from Peter was a great thing that left his audiences feeling both smarter and challenged with a whole new landscape of choices.”
 
Sociology graduate student Marc Smith noted on a social networking site, "Peter had a big impact on his many students at UCLA and the larger academic community that built on his scholarship. He gave many of his students the inspiration to think that conflicts could be resolved and cooperation sustained by leveraging insights from studies of these situations." 

Professor Kollock was also a generous, responsible and creative faculty member who served on academic committees and numerous editorial boards, said Professor William Roy, chair of the department. Kollock recently served as vice chair for undergraduate education.

"In addition to his professional achievements, there was the force of his personality — lighting up the room wherever he was — and strength of his character — someone who thought deeply about the nature of life and our place in the universe. There is no one who could so comfortably bridge a meditative spirit with the world of finance and high technology," Roy said.

His survivors include his wife, Ellen van Nood of Calabasas; his mother, Marisa LaCabe, and his father, James Kollock, both of Seattle, Wash.; and two sisters, Marta Peters and Monica Klein.