The most distinguished political scientist to graduate from our department, Robert A. Dahl, passed away on February 5, 2014 at the age of 98. He was the Sterling Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Senior Research Scientist at Yale University where he served as a faculty member for over 40 years. Described by the New York Times as the scholar who “defined politics and power” he continues to be one of the most influential political scientists of any generation.
Professor Dahl graduated from the University of Washington with a BA in Political Science in 1936. As a child Dahl moved with his family from Iowa to Skagway, Alaska where his father worked as a doctor for the railroad. He reportedly attended the UW because it was the closest university. During his time on campus he was an active member of the community, rowed as a member of the lightweight crew and received the UW President’s Scholarship Medal for high grades during his junior year. Dahl served as editor of the UW Daily student newspaper until his resignation on May 27, 1936 over concerns about censorship, writing in his resignation letter, "God knows there is no place around this University for a man with either ideas or ideals."
His books, articles, awards and honors are numerous and well covered in obituaries from the New York Times and others as well as the Yale University Political Science Department website. Of special relevance to our department is his receipt of the UW's Alumnus Summa Laude Dignatus Award in 1982. Our department offers an annual award to the Outstanding Senior in political science named in Professor Dahl’s honor.
For an interview by Margaret Levi with Robert Dahl, conducted in 2011, please click here.