Known affectionately to almost everyone as “Doc,” he was an innovative teacher and gregarious colleague who devoted his life to connecting with students in the classroom and beyond. At the time he retired from teaching, he held the Brannon-Ballard Chair of Sociology. He came to Beloit from Nebraska with scholarly interests that included social theory and social psychology. In the last decade of his career, he also became interested in feminist theory.
During his tenure, Doc could regularly be seen riding around campus on a clunky old bicycle. He was a diehard sports fan and a mainstay and founder of Beloit “Noonball,” pickup basketball that started in the late 1960s and continues to this day on weekdays in the Flood Arena. The games draw mostly faculty, staff, and coaches for play over the noon hour. Summers is the only player to have had his Noonball jersey retired and displayed in the locker room.
“My dad wasn’t in Rotary Club or Kiwanis,” explained Doc’s son, Dan, in the Beloit Daily News. “His fraternity was Noonball.” Doc and his wife, Joyce, raised three children in Beloit: Dan, Sondra, and Diana, who survive him.
The family requests memorial gifts be made to two existing sociology department prizes for students: the Donald A. Summers Prize in Sociological Theory, awarded to high-achieving sociology majors, and the Joyce A. Summers Award, given to sociology majors who plan to teach elementary school or work with young people facing cultural, economic, and academic challenges.