Burdine Chronicles – April 2010

At this month’s 68th Midwest Political Science Association Annual Meeting, Bryan D. Jones, the J.J. “Jake” Pickle Chair in Congressional Studies, assumes the presidency of the organization. There are three points I would like to make regarding this milestone.

First, our department has finally conquered the last of the big three. Faculty, former faculty, or alumni have a relatively impressive presence in the list of American Political Science Association past presidents – Charles G. Haines in 1938-39, V.O. Key, Jr. in 1957-58, R. Taylor Cole in 1958-59, and Emmette Redford in 1960-61. We have had an even bigger presence, unsurprisingly, in the list of Southern Political Science Association past presidents – Roscoe Martin in 1942, R. Taylor Cole in 1951, Wallace Mendelson in 1969, Donald Strong in 1970, William Livingston in 1975, Clifton McCleskey in 1983, and Earl Black in 1997. Jones’ presidency marks the first time a Longhorn has hooked the Midwest. It certainly will not be the last – which brings me to my second point.

Even if we had not succeeded three years ago in moving Jones from Seattle back to Austin, his MPSA presidency would be a cause for celebration because he is an alumnus, having received his Ph.D. from the department in 1970. This department, in one capacity or another, has a history of producing disciplinary leaders. We have every reason to believe – and every expectation – that this will continue. It might be the student just enrolled, the student not yet admitted, the visiting faculty member, or you – but we know it is going to happen, and happen more than once. And our alumni especially can draw inspiration from Jones’ career, which has been built on hard work and sheer native intelligence. He worked his way up from a lengthy stint at Wayne State University (no offense, but not a peer institution) before heading for greener pastures in College Station, Seattle, and, finally, his alma mater. His career also is marked by numerous alumni connections. His first article in the Journal of Politics (the journal he says saved his career, and which, judging by recent trends will accelerate the careers of many members of our department), was published in 1973, the median year between the editorships of William Livingston and Donald Strong.

The third and final point is that our recent effort to reach out to our alumni, the centerpiece to this effort being these periodic newsletters, has multiple purposes. A primary goal is to occasionally inform you of the storied history of the Department of Government and of the many luminaries associated with it. Another is to convince you that loyalty to your old department and former mentors will be returned in kind. It has been a real pleasure reengaging with alumni to this point, and we are eagerly anticipating the opening of new doors for all of us as we move on.

Gary P. Freeman, Chair