In Memoriam: Distinguished University Professor Emeritus, Philip Abbott
Patti asked that I speak to Phil’s accomplishments as a scholar, and I consider it a privilege to do so.
My first meeting with Phil was on the initial evening of my interview for the Chair’s position at Wayne State Political Science in 2004. Although we both received our doctorates from Rutgers University, Phil was ahead of me in the program and I knew him only by his reputation among the graduate students. For my interview at WSU, the Dean of Arts and Sciences invited Phil to the dinner with us at the top of the Renaissance Center, and the reason was clear: to introduce me to the most accomplished faculty member in the department. I joined Wayne State as Chair of the Department of Political Science that August, and one of the principal reasons for my decision was the opportunity to work with a scholar of the stature of Philip Abbott.
Permit me to describe just a portion of the exceptional research under Phil’s name. Professor Abbott is the author of fourteen books and three edited volumes. These works are among the most important in the fields of Political Theory and the American Presidency. His book Political Thought in America is the leading text on American political theory. Professor Abbott’s prodigious scholarly record also includes the authorship of roughly ten chapters in edited collections. He published over thirty-five sole-authored articles in such prestigious journals as Perspectives on Politics, Polity, the Journal of Politics, Political Research Quarterly, Political Theory, and Presidential Studies Quarterly. This immense body of exceptional work established Philip Abbott as one of the leading scholars in the discipline of political science.
Phil received his Ph.D. from Rutgers in 1971, began his work as an Assistant Professor at Wayne State in 1970 and was promoted to Full Professor in 1980. Long recognized as one of the nation’s foremost political theorists, Phil had a profound appreciation for the relevance of his subject matter to contemporary life and its value in illuminating real world ethical dilemmas. His works exhibited uncommon sensitivity to such issues, setting him apart from others working in the field of political theory. In the 1990s Professor Abbott began to receive national recognition for his research in an additional field -- the American presidency. It was in this area of specialization that Phil’s reputation achieved even greater heights. Five of his last eight critically acclaimed books analyzed the office and role of the presidency, strong and weak presidents, untimely presidential successions, and a masterwork on Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
In keeping with Philip Abbott’s extraordinary record of scholarship, he was the recipient of prestigious external awards, including his appointment by the American Fulbright Association as the Thomas Jefferson Professor of American Political Institutions at the University of Amsterdam. Professor Abbott was also the recipient of every major internal award for scholarship that Wayne State University confers. He was the first member of the faculty of the Department of Political Science – and one of the few faculty members in Liberal Arts – to be inducted into the Academy of Scholars. He was the recipient of two Board of Governors’ Faculty Recognition Awards, one for his book Furious Fancies: American Political Thought in the Post-Liberal Era , and a second for his two books, Seeking Many Inventions: The Idea of Community in America and States of Perfect Freedom: Autobiography and American Political Thought. Among Philip Abbott’s other awards were a Gershenson Distinguished Faculty Fellowship, a Distinguished Graduate Faculty Award, and the Michigan Association of Governing Boards of Higher Education Award. In recognition of his stellar accomplishments as a scholar, Dr. Abbott was named Distinguished University Professor in 2005 – the highest academic honor the University can bestow.
Philip Abbott’s remarkable record extended as well to his teaching and service. He directed over ten doctoral dissertations and over twenty-five Master’s theses. Professor Abbott taught a large number of undergraduate and graduate courses including the required doctoral seminar in Philosophic Problems of Social and Political Inquiry. In recognition of the superb quality of his teaching, Dr. Abbott received both the University’s Graduate Mentor Award and the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Lastly, Phil Abbott made huge contributions to the governance of the Department, the College, and the University as a whole. He served as an elected member of the Department’s Policy and Personnel Committee and as its Chair for nearly twenty years. Professor Abbott held the role of Assistant Dean and Graduate Officer of the College of Liberal Arts for three years, served one or more terms on over half a dozen College Committees, and in 2001 was named President of the Liberal Arts Faculty Council. Dr. Abbott was an elected member of the Academic Senate for over a decade, and he chaired the Policy Committee of that body over a period of multiple years. In Toto, his service to the University included membership on over thirty different standing or ad hoc units and committees.
It is difficult to grasp how one man could have accomplished so much, in so many areas, in such a brief time.
In closing, I wish to note that Philip Abbott’s monumental reputation as a scholar and the status he conferred on the Department of Political Science, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Wayne State University is without equal. With his passing, the University and the discipline have lost a great scholar, the Department has lost its leader, Patti, Megan, Josh and Kevin have lost a husband, father, and grandfather -- and I have lost a friend. But, for the sake of us all, his magnificent works live on.
Department of Political Science