Vaughn, Soifer Take Top Jesuit Book Prizes

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

The Challenger Launch Decision: Risky Technology, Culture and Deviance at NASA , by Prof. Diane Vaughan (Sociology), won first prize in the Professional Studies category of the 19th annual National Jesuit Book Awards presented by the Jesuit honor society Alpha Sigma Nu.

Another Boston College faculty author, Prof. Aviam Soifer (Law), won second place in the same category for his 1995 book Law and the Company We Keep .

Their works topped a field of 44 books written by faculty from 17 American Jesuit colleges and universities.

"I think it's a great honor," said Vaughan, whose examination of the aftermath of the Challenger explosion was published in 1996. "The books submitted for this prize were all marked by superior scholarship, and it's a privilege to have won."

Prof. Diane Vaughan (Sociology).

Judges cited Vaughan for "serious and exact scholarship presented with mastery, clarity and objectivity," saying her analysis of the 1986 space shuttle disaster "goes beyond the level of bureaucratic decision-making into a deep investigation of the culture of power."

The Soifer book, which mulls the proper attitude of law toward the various ethnic, political and religious groups in America's pluralist society, won praise for "detailed and numerous references that buttress the analysis of nearly every page" while reflecting "all sides of the questions."

"Of all the honors I've received, this is one of the most meaningful, because of its association with the Jesuit mission I treasure," Soifer said.

Vaughan and Soifer will be honored at induction ceremonies of the Boston College Alpha Sigma Nu chapter on Nov. 21 in the Lower Campus Dining Hall Heights Room, said chapter moderator William McInnes, SJ, who noted that it is unusual for two representatives from the same institution to win awards in the same year.

Prof. Aviam Soifer (Law).

Alpha Sigma Nu awards book prizes each year in a specific category, such as the humanities, science, or professional studies, which encompasses a range of fields from architecture to law.
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