Archive | Obituary

Lee Was a Fan of Meatloaf

This is really a post about Lee as editor. The meaning of the title will be apparent momentarily.

Eric Lawrence talked earlier about Lee’s willingness and diligence as an informal editor of faculty manuscripts. My first experience with Lee in this regard was no less traumatic than Eric’s. I gave Lee a woolly version of what became this article. He gave it back to me and said that he could only get through the first 7 of what was maybe 40 pages.

Yikes. This was because the paper violated Lee’s Law of Introductions. It states that introductions do two things: (1) state the research question and (2) state why this is an important question to answer. And that is all. The introduction of my draft, however, was like some second-grader’s primitive collage: a little bit on the question, some literature review, a brief discussion of data, a preview of findings, and that annoying paragraph where people say “In the next section, we do this. After that, we do this other thing. In the conclusion, we conclude.” In other words, it was like the introduction of most scholarly articles. Lee cured me of writing this sort of introduction. My work is better for it.

Of course, Lee’s editing didn’t end there. He was fiendish about writing, as Erik noted in his post. I was always embarrassed to get back drafts full of his penciled changes. Some of these were a bit idiosyncratic: “although” replaced “though,” “since” was not a synonym for “because.” Others could not be argued with. Everything I write from now on will be that much more unwieldy.

Lee’s abilities as an editor went much beyond copy-editing, however. His tenure at the American Political Science Review deserves special mention. When Lee took the helm, the APSR had been criticized for, among other things, focusing too much on research that relied on quantitative analysis and/or formal models. There was really a lot of acrimony surrounding the journal, and in political science generally (a brief summary is here).

Lee took the helm and, by all accounts, righted the ship. Lee became the editor of the APSR in the fall of 2001. In 2002 and again in 2007, James Garand, Michael Giles, and colleagues conducted surveys of political scientists that measured their opinions of various scholarly journals. Here is what Garand et al. found in over this five-year period, which nearly perfectly capture Lee’s tenure as editor:

It is particularly interesting to note that the previous evaluation of the American Political Science Review reported by Garand and Giles (2003) was considerably lower than that reported in Table 2. In the 2002 survey, the APSR was ranked seventeenth in terms of its evaluation by American political scientists; for many political scientists this was a shockingly low mean evaluation for what is generally viewed as the flagship journal of the discipline. However, in these results based on our 2007 survey, the APSR is ranked first in terms of its mean evaluation. Perhaps the relatively lower ranking in 2002 reflected criticisms of the APSR that prevailed at the time among some political scientists, most notably the adherents to the Perestroika movement within the political science discipline.

I’m sure that Lee’s tenure was not without its controversies. But I think his impact—and that of the staff and editorial board who he was quick to credit—is obvious.

I had only one interaction with Lee as APSR editor. What I remember most is his second letter, offering my co-author and me conditional acceptance of the revised mansucript, based on this assessment:

All three reviewers consider the revised version of your paper to be a substantial improvement upon the original. Two of the reviewers now endorse publication…However, one reviewer…perceives that only some of the concerns that s/he expressed and the suggestions that s/he offered for allaying these concerns were acted upon…The reviewer, then, recommends that the paper be rejected.
Where does that leave us? In the words of the philosopher Meatloaf, two out of three ain’t bad.

And thereafter followed instructions to revise the paper in light of the third reviewer’s concerns.[1]

Whatever problems we all have with scholarly journals, I think it is incontrovertible that those problems would be noticeably ameliorated if more editor’s letters included quotes from Meatloaf.

Lee, I’ll say it again: we miss you.

fn1. Lee also wrote:

And while you’re at it: The paper is still long. Shorten it.
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Watching Lee Work

As so many people do, I owe a lot to Lee. To start with, Lee hired both me and my wife at a time when it looked like a cross-country commute was the most likely outcome of our combined job search. Any academic couple can appreciate what that means. But I have also learned a lot from simply watching Lee work.

By any measure, Lee was an incredibly productive man. He published countless articles, many in the top journals. He was the sole editor of the top political science journal, The American Political Science Review, for six years. He was also a gifted administrator as a dean, as a chairman who built the political science department at GW, and in numerous other capacities.

How he could do all this was a bit of a mystery. Walking into Lee’s office, one would invariably be greeted by electronic music that reminded one of the reasons the term “eurotrash” was invented. Usually, some web-site would be open that displayed the latest on cycling (gear), GW basketball, dogs, cats, cakes, or whatever random turn the lunch conversation happened to have taken. Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of having lunch with Lee will remember what a fountain of random knowledge he was.

How can a man who seems so devoted to random stuff be so incredibly productive?

I wish I knew the full answer to this but I do know a couple of things. First, Lee was a better writer than 99% of political scientists. Some may deem this faint praise. Either way, it helped him tremendously as an editor and a researcher and is one of the reasons he has so many happy co-authors (myself included). Lee knew not just how to write well but also recognized bad writing instantaneously. There was simply no way to mask muddled thinking with elaborate prose.

Second, Lee was incredibly efficient in what he didn’t do. To start with, he hated meetings and found them hugely unproductive. So, he simply cut them. This trend continued after his reign had ended. An average year at GW would have about 2-3 full department meetings, which would last for about an hour each. And, yes, a large academic department (about 40 full-time faculty) can function perfectly well without meetings. He also didn’t pick fights or start the type of silly rivalries that are so common but so unproductive in academia.

Third, Lee had an amazing ability to go to the heart of any matter instantaneously. I remember the few meetings where some controversial issue arose. Inevitably, Lee would remain quiet until at some point all eyes eagerly looked in his direction expecting a judgment. The judgment was always short, definitive, and considerate of opinions in the room. He did the same as editor and researcher.

Most importantly, Lee set an example that one can be a great researcher and administrator while also being modest, a terrific colleague, and an altogether nice guy who has interests outside of his profession. The diversity of his interests kept him going in his profession until his very last days. Like John and Eric, I was lucky enough to see Lee last week. We discussed cakes, unlikely birthing and wedding stories, and other random issues until summoned to leave so he could discuss some revisions with a co-author. Typical Lee.

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I encourage readers to see this comment thread for various thoughts about Lee, including from several of his family members. Here is a brief piece in the GW Hatchet. My colleague Steve Balla has a nice remembrance here.

We also appreciate the kind words of Ezra Klein, Robert Farley (see the comments there as well), Chris Lawrence, Peter Loewen, Marvin King, and Steven Taylor. I apologize if I have missed others.

If anyone who would like to offer other memories of Lee, feel free to send them to me and I will publish them here.

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The Sigelman Fund for Political Science


The Sigelman Fund for Political Science has been established in Lee’s memory. These funds will be utilized to assist junior faculty with their research, which was a passion of Lee’s. Gifts should be made out to George Washington University and sent to:

The Sigelman Fund for Political Science
George Washington University
Department of Political Science
Monroe 440, 2115 G Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052

People, let me tell you: there is no cause greater than junior faculty research.

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The weirder the better

Lee didn’t only publish multitudes of serious research articles. He was also responsible (together with henchperson Forrest Maltzman and a cast of others) for such outrages to the profession as the inquiry into whether bad ventilation killed off early 20th century Congressmen, the claim that Bush v. Gore had been decided in order to tip the balance in the Supreme Court election betting pool and uncovering the role of Ken Arrow in changing the papal election system. Soon after I came to GWU, I thought about submitting a piece to the APSR under Lee’s editorship, but was worried that it would be too off-beat and that derisory rejection letters might hurt my tenure chances. I cautiously approached Lee to ask whether submitting something weird to the APSR was a bad idea in principle. He beamed at me (for Dakotan values of ‘beamed’) and assured me that from his point of view as editor, the weirder the better.

This attitude, more than anything else, explains why we have had so many bloggers in GWU’s political science department. Lee shaped the department’s culture into one which valued good academic research, but also valued weirdness. This made it (and makes it) an attractive place to work for people who don’t fit into the usual disciplinary boxes, and who are more inclined to experiment. Lee was a blogger before he ever started blogging. He also (and I suspect this is something few people outside GWU know) was a serious fan of electronic music. A few years ago, when Kraftwerk, his favorite band (for Tour de France in particular) played the 9.30 Club, he was a bit put out that he couldn’t find anyone to go with, so I ended up going with him, stopping off at Ben’s Chili Bowl first, and running into Tyler Cowen at the event, with a book in hand (Tyler told us that he usually brought one along and read it upstairs until the band came on stage). It was a fun evening with good conversation – Lee was in his element, even if it was an element that you might not have expected to be his, had you not known him. I can’t say how much I am going to miss him.

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Lee as a Mentor and a Person Stubbornly Wrong about Lubbock

My colleague Eric Lawrence sends along this remembrance:

Lee was my mentor. Many people claim Lee mentored them, but I have a stronger claim to make. Lee was formally appointed my mentor when I entered the political science as a junior faculty member, and I believe I was his last mentee. My department chair never told me why Lee was appointed my mentor. Perhaps it was because we both hailed from the Midwest, Lee from South Dakota, me from Iowa. Perhaps it was because Lee loved biking in pink and I used to ride a pink bicycle. Or perhaps Lee drew the short straw. Whatever the reason, Lee taught me several things in his capacity as my mentor, but I’ll discuss just one.
Lee read my papers and provided advice. Lee was tough. The first time he read one of my papers, he warned me before giving me his comments that he didn’t hate the paper but he thought it needed quite a bit of improvement. After reading his comments, I failed to see any evidence that he didn’t hate it. After working through the comments a second time a few days later, I convinced myself that Lee wanted me to succeed and that he had demonstrated that he respected me by being tough. It was either that or find a new job. As I write papers now, I try to adhere to Lee’s advice as best I can, though I’ll never match his pace or grace.
Although Lee was my mentor, we did not have a one-way relationship. Outside the faculty lunch room, my primary interaction with him was to provide him advice and help him with graphing and analyzing data. Lee taught me the importance of being able to say no, but I never said no to him. One day, after explaining a series of steps to take in order to do what he wanted to do, I told him to take the book that laid out the explanation and to keep it. I assured him I had another copy of the book at home, so I wasn’t even being particularly generous. He accepted the book, saying “Thanks. That reminds me…Are you going to be in your office a while?” I said yes, and he said he’d call me in a bit. Later he called and told me to come to the front of our building. Lee was parked outside, and he told me to take the box of books from his car. Inside the box was a full set of the “little green Sage books,” a series of statistical monographs, treasure for a bibliophile with completist tendencies. I thanked Lee in appropriate Midwestern fashion with “gee thanks, Lee.” I brought the box up to my office, but left it on the floor, as the box had a dual meaning to me. For one, it was Lee’s way of thanking me for the help I’d provided him over the years. On the other hand, I didn’t like that Lee was giving away his possessions during a period of time when his chemotherapy wasn’t going so well. I decided it would be bad karma to shelve the books and claim them as mine, so I kept the box on the floor for many months. Lee rallied from that period, however, so I gave in and shelved the books, in order, as Lee and I agreed was the only way books should be shelved.
If you continue to follow the tributes to Lee here, you will read many words of praise. It should be said, however, that Lee had some faults. He was a great lover of dogs, but for some strange reason he also loved cats. He could be persnickety about jokes. For example: “Hey Lee, did you hear about the Iowa farmer who loved his wife so much he told her?” was met with “It was a South Dakota farmer, and he almost told her.” Also, he sometimes had a hard time admitting defeat. My favorite argument with him concerned whether Lubbock is in the Texas panhandle. Confronted with the escalating evidence of first person testimony of an Amarillo native, wikipedia, and finally Frederick Rathjen’s classic Texas Panhandle Frontier (reissued in 1998 by Texas Tech Press, located in Lubbock no less), Lee refused to budge from his position that Lubbock was part of the panhandle. So while he was a great colleague, mentor, and friend, he wasn’t perfect.
In the last week of Lee’s life, Forrest Maltzman (our department chair) and Lee’s wife Carol arranged for small groups of Lee’s colleagues to meet with him. I was fortunate to be able to visit him with John and Jim Goldgeier. Lee was physically weak by then, but he was remarkably engaged and animated during our conversation. His health never came up. Instead, we covered department business for a good chunk of time, then turned to Lee’s recent wedding[1], Jim’s son’s indoor track events, GW basketball, Mardi Gras, and a range of other topics. Carol suggested we should let Lee rest, so we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways, dreading it would be our last time seeing Lee. The next day, John and I shared our common impression of how remarkably similar our conversation had been to a normal lunch conversation. The only difference, for me, anyway, was that instead of going into my office to work, I got into my car and cried. Lee will be greatly missed.

fn1. That is a story for another post.

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Lee and the GW baby boom

Since Lee wasn’t exactly a demonstrative person, I thought I might share how much the GW political science department’s recent baby boom meant to him. Now, one might not have expected him to greet the arrival of children among his junior colleagues (and former junior colleagues, like myself) with unmitigated delight. After all, it might have led us to pay less attention to our cats and to slow down our research agendas. (Note: how Lee would have ranked these two obligations is not obvious to me.)

But in some recent e-mail exchanges with me, Lee wrote in his own inimitable fashion about becoming a “quasi-grandfather”—yes, his words—to the GW brood. Though he did express “wonderment” at the fact that his “junior colleagues continue to spit out babies like watermelon seeds,” he obviously took great pleasure in the relationships he had with the faculty he had built and with their families.

It is true that Lee had a nurturing side. Any colleague who lost a pet was the object of Lee’s warmest sympathy, and he was delighted when someone adopted a new one, especially from a shelter. He was actively involved with the Washington Animal Rescue League—someone will be able to fill in the details there, no doubt. And his junior colleagues’ professional accomplishments brought out a sweet paternal dimension as well: he literally patted me on the head when I had a paper accepted by the APSR under his editorship.

But babies—I wouldn’t necessarily have expected Lee to be a zayde, but I love imagining him as one, and I wish I could have seen it.

My heart is with all my friends at GW, and with their children and their pets.

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While You Were Sleeping, Lee Was Publishing

The title paraphrases something Nelson Polsby used to say about his co-author and friend, the famously prolific Aaron Wildavsky: “While Polsby sleeps, Wildavsky publishes!

The same is true of Lee. I didn’t realize how true this was until earlier today, when I obtained a copy of his CV, as of May 2009. All 26 pages are here.

By my count, Lee authored or co-authored 5 books and edited 5 more. The (co-)authored books are:

  • Modernization and the Political System: A Critique and Preliminary Empirical Analysis (here).
  • Black Americans’ Views of Racial Inequality: The Dream Deferred (here). With Susan Welch.
  • Computer Simulation Applications: An Introduction (here). With Marcia Lynn Whicker.
  • Race and Place: Residence and Race Relations in an American City (here). With Susan Welch, Timothy Bledsoe, and Michael Combs.
  • Attack Politics: Negative Campaigning in Preisdential Elections Since 1960 (here). With Emmett H. Buell, Jr.

In addition to these books, Lee published 269 peer-reviewed articles. He published about 10 articles since his diagnosis in September 2007 alone. Put differently, he published approximately 7.5 articles every year since he was awarded his doctorate. And these numbers are undercounts. I am told that he had 2 articles accepted for publication in the past week.

Here is a sampling of the topics on which Lee has written:

Lee’s scholarly output is also a testament to his collegiality and generosity as a co-author. In fact, when I tried to find a copy of Lee’s vita on-line, none was forthcoming. Most of what I found was . . . the vitae of his co-authors. That is a testament to his modesty.

Various Monkey Cage bloggers and guest-bloggers will have more to say on Lee’s other contributions to political science, to our department, and to us individually. In the time it takes us to write these posts—and you to read them—I’m sure Lee will have published something else.

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Our colleague and one of the founders of this blog, Lee Sigelman, died last night. He was diagnosed with cancer over two years ago. We will have much more to say about Lee in the days ahead. We mourn his passing, even as we celebrate his life.

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Neal Tate


Neal Tate, a fine scholar, an equally fine administrator, and an all-around good person, has died.

Here, from the Vanderbilt University website, is an overview of Neal’s career and many contributions:

Neal Tate, a professor and chair of the Department of Political Science who provided strong leadership during a successful rebuilding of the department, died on Sept. 13. Tate, 65, had been recovering from major surgery.

Tate, who was recruited to Vanderbilt from the University of North Texas in 2003, was widely admired by his academic colleagues for not only his stature as a scholar but also his administrative and interpersonal skills. During his time at Vanderbilt, the department’s reputation soared as it steadily added esteemed faculty to its ranks. Tate also held an appointment at Vanderbilt Law School.

“Neal Tate was a valued friend, an accomplished scholar and a leader of his department, the university and the discipline of political science,” said Carolyn Dever, dean of the College of Arts and Science and professor of English. “We will reap the benefits of his great work for many years to come.”

Tate, who was born in Gastonia, N.C., received his bachelor’s degree from Wake Forest University, where he graduated cum laude in 1965. He then went to Tulane University to earn his master’s degree and doctorate.

Tate began teaching at the University of North Texas in 1970 and eventually became dean of the Robert B. Toulouse School of Graduate Studies and Regents Professor of Political Science before coming to Vanderbilt. He did extensive research on comparative and American judicial politics. Other areas of academic specialization were Third World politics and the military in politics.

Bruce Oppenheimer, professor of political science and acting department chair, said that Tate was simply a first-rate person and friend who demonstrated great leadership. “Neal contributed a huge investment of his time and effort the past six years to guide our department. For example, the number of political science faculty increased by two-thirds under his watch.”

In 1994 Tate was a Fulbright-Hays Senior Research Fellow at Ateneo de Manila University’s College of Law in the Philippines. He also served from 1994 to 1996 as director of the Law and Social Science Program at the National Science Foundation while on leave from the University of North Texas.

Tate served as editor of The Law and Politics Book Review, published by The Law and Courts Section of the American Political Science Association, from 1996 to 1999. In 2005 he was editor-in-chief for Governments of the World: A Global Guide to Citizens’ Rights and Responsibilities.

He was a co-author of Deepening Our Understanding of U.S. Foreign Assistance on Democracy Building Final Report, prepared for the United States Agency for International Development in 2008. Another article that he co-authored, Is the Law a Mere Parchment Barrier to Human Rights Abuse? was published in the April 2009 issue of the Journal of Politics.

At the time of his death, he was working on a book project titled Political Repression, Human Rights and the Rule of Law: The Global Picture, 1976-2005.

Tate was serving as 2009-2010 president of the Southern Political Science Association.

Last spring Tate was awarded the Alexander Heard Distinguished Service Professor Award, given annually to a Vanderbilt faculty member for distinctive contributions to the understanding of problems of contemporary society.

Tate is survived by his mother, Pearl Tate of Gastonia, N.C.; wife, Carol Tate of Nashville; daughter, Dr. Erin Tate, and son-in-law, Scott Fisher of Dallas, Texas; three brothers and their wives, Michael and Barbara Tate of Gastonia, Donald and Susan Tate of Mount Pleasant, S.C., Richard and Kathryn Tate of Fulshear, Texas; and several nieces and nephews.

Arrangements are being handled by Marshall Donnelly-Combs. A memorial service is planned later this week in Benton Chapel on the Vanderbilt campus.

[Thanks to Steve Wasby]

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