Beloved political science professor dies

Political science professor Lee Sigelman passed away Dec. 21 after a two-year battle with colon cancer. He was 64.

Sigelman is credited by peers with helping to transform the political science department during his time as department chair and after. He was a prolific author with five books and hundreds of peer-reviewed articles to his name, but will be remembered by his family at GW for his sense of humor and devotion to students and junior colleagues, friends said.

Political science department chair Forrest Maltzman added in an e-mail to The Hatchet that the department had “thrived” under Sigelman’s direction.

“In addition to publishing a great deal, Lee came to GW with the mandate to build a top-ranked political science department,” Maltzman said. “He succeeded.”

Fellow GW professor John Sides, who has written a series of posts about Sigelman describing everything from his penchant for oddball articles to his “quasi-grandfather” status, agreed.

“Lee built a department that is an unusual combination of collegiality and intellectual excellence. Some departments have smart people. Some have nice people. We have both,” Sides said in an e-mail.

Sigelman was devoted to the department and remained active in University life even as he battled cancer and underwent chemotherapy, Sides said.

“That selflessness sets him apart from many faculty, for whom administrative appointments and committee work are to be avoided at all costs,” Sides said.

Professor Eric Lawrence also wrote a colorful and moving piece in Sigelman’s memory, remembering an arranged visit for the close-knit department to see Sigelman in his last weeks.

“The next day, John and I shared our common impression of how remarkably similar our conversation had been to a normal lunch conversation,” Lawrence wrote. “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.”

On Monkey Cage, a political science blog that multiple professors like Sides and Sigelman contribute to, other students, colleagues and some family members left their thoughts and condolences.

“He was a wonderful mentor,” read one entry. “And, if he’s out there reading this in the great beyond, I promise I’ll never use the word impact as a verb again!”

Another noted, “The best compliment I can give him, I think, is that one would never have known he was fighting cancer.”

The department has established a fund to help junior faculty with their research endeavors, The Sigelman Fund for Political Science, in Sigelman’s name.

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