Scheff, who retired in 1992, is the 28th UC emeritus professor to receive the award, and the third from UCSB. Also receiving a 2012 award is R. Duncan Luce, a research professor of cognitive sciences and of economics at UC Irvine.
Melvin Oliver, the SAGE Sara Miller McCune dean of social sciences at UCSB, said of Scheff: "This award represents one of the highest honors a UC scholar can receive. I am pleased to see Thomas Scheff's continued productivity in the field of sociology deservedly recognized. He is truly among the most distinguished emeriti scholars from the University of California system."
Verta Taylor, professor and chair of sociology at UCSB, added: "Professor Scheff is one of the most creative scholars of his generation. His scholarship, which spans well over half a decade, has made seminal contributions to the understanding of mental illness, emotions, and social conflict."
"The Panunzio Award comes at a good time for me," said Scheff. "All of my work has been interdisciplinary within the many divisions of social/behavioral studies, psychiatry and also the humanities, particularly English and German literature. This kind of integrative effort is not always well received by the parent disciplines, so I take the award as the encouragement I needed in order to continue."
Internationally recognized as one of the key proponents of labeling theory and the development of theory and method in the study of emotion, Scheff also has contributed to the fields of psychology, psychiatry, public health, and literary studies. He has published notable studies of Goethe, George Eliot, Proust, and, currently, Virginia Woolf.
Scheff is the author of several books and articles, including "What's Love Got to Do With It? Emotions and Relationships in Pop Songs" (Paradigm Publishers, 2011), in which he examines lyrics from 80 years of American song. In addition, he has produced four 60-minute films that can be viewed on UCTV and YouTube. One of them, "A Wake on the Pier," screened at the Santa Barbara Film Festival in 2007, and has been accessed hundreds of times on UCTV.
Scheff has received numerous honors and awards for his scholarship and service as an emeritus professor. Among them are honorary doctorates from the University of Karlstad in Sweden and from Copenhagen University in Denmark, and his election as president of the Pacific Sociological Association.
The Distinguished Emeriti Award is named for the late Constantine Panunzio, a professor of sociology at UCLA for many years. Described as the architect of the UC retirement system, Panunzio was particularly active in improving pensions and stipends for his fellow emeriti. The award bearing his name was established in 1983 and includes a $5,000 prize.