Prof. Ted Lowi, government, was one of the most prominent faculty members at Cornell.

February 23, 2017

Renowned Political Scientist Prof Ted Lowi Dies at Age of 85

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Renowned political scientist Prof. Theodore ‘Ted’ Lowi, government, passed away at the age of 85 in Ithaca Feb. 17, according to the University.

Before he started working at Cornell, Lowi earned his bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University in 1954 and his master’s and doctoral degrees in political science from Yale University in 1955 and 1961.

Lowi came to teach at Cornell in 1959, less than two years before he finished his doctoral degree. In 1965, he left to work at the University of Chicago and returned to Cornell in 1972 after being offered the John L. Senior Professor of American Institutions position.

“Ted was the most important social scientist to teach at Cornell in the school’s entire history,” said Isaac Kramnick, the Richard J. Schwartz professor of government emeritus.

Among Lowi’s most important contributions are his numerous publications. His textbook “American Government,” published in 1976, is currently in its 13th edition and is still widely used at universities across the country.

Lowi was also the editor of “The Pursuit of Justice,” a 1964 book by Robert F. Kennedy regarding Kennedy’s term as the attorney general.

“His writing, his mesmerizing teaching, his definitive scholarship and international eminence, and his spirited personality meant he was never still. He was a dynamo,” Kramnick said.
In addition to writing, Lowi also joined the Cornell orchestra as an oboist and a recorder group while he was a faculty member. Lowi played in the recorder group with Prof. M.H. Abrams, English, author of the “Norton Anthology of English Literature.”

“Ted Lowi was an amazing man,” said Gretchen Ritter ’83, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Lowi’s former student. “He was a giant in the field of American politics. When I came to Cornell as a freshman, Lowi gave a lecture as part of freshman orientation. Hundreds of students came. I remember being awed by him — he had amazing presence and his remarks were deeply insightful. I left the lecture feeling so excited about the superb faculty and the educational opportunity that lay ahead of me at Cornell.”

In 1976, Lowi proposed an undergraduate program for research and teaching in Washington, D.C. — now known as Cornell in Washington — to Cornell President Dale Corson and Provost David Knapp. It was approved by President Frank H.T. Rhodes and Provost Keith Kennedy by the spring semester of 1980.

However, Lowi’s impact extended far beyond Cornell’s borders. He was named the top political scientist in the United States by the American Political Science Association in 1978 and served as its president in 1991. In 2008, the association presented him with the James Madison Award — a prestigious award given for protecting public accessibility of government information.
Lowi was also the president of the International Political Science Association from 1997 to 2000, a Guggenheim fellow, a fellow at the National Endowment for the Humanities and moderated a third-party presidential debate in 2004.