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Imagine the Possibilities
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Distinguished University Professor Philip Abbott to Retire
Posted Tue, 12/16/2014
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I joined Wayne State University as Chair of the Department of Political Science in August of 2004.  One of the principal reasons for my decision was the opportunity to work with a scholar of the stature of Phillip Abbott.  Although I had never met Professor Abbott before my first visit to Wayne State, I was aware of his extraordinary body of work and stellar reputation in the discipline.  My choice to accept the position of Chair was directly related to his presence and the status this conferred on the department.

Professor Abbott is the author of thirteen books and three edited volumes.  These works are among the most notable in the fields of Political Theory and the American Presidency.  His book Political Thought in America is the leading text on American political theory.  Professor Abbott’s scholarly record also includes the authorship of eight chapters in edited collections and the co-authorship of one additional chapter.  He has published a total of thirty-five sole-authored articles in such prestigious journals as Perspectives on Politics, Polity, the Journal of Politics, Political Research Quarterly, Political Theory, and Presidential Studies Quarterly.  This body of work has established Phillip Abbott as one of the leading scholars in political science.

Phil received his Ph.D. from Rutgers University in 1971 with a dissertation directed by Gordon Schochet.  He began his work as an Assistant Professor at Wayne State University in 1970 and was promoted to Full Professor in 1980.  Long recognized as one of the nation’s foremost political theorists, in the 1990s Professor Abbott began to receive national recognition for his research on the American presidency.  Unlike many political theorists, Phil had a profound appreciation of the relevance of his subject matter to contemporary life and its value in illuminating real world ethical dilemmas.

In keeping with Phillip Abbott’s extraordinary record of scholarship, he has been the recipient of prestigious external awards, including his 1997 appointment by the American Fulbright Association as the Thomas Jefferson Professor of American Political Institutions at the University of Amsterdam.  Professor Abbott has also been the recipient of every major internal award for scholarship that Wayne State University bestows.  He is the only member of the faculty of the Department of Political Science – and one of the few faculty members in Liberal Arts – to be inducted into the Academy of Scholars.  He is the recipient of two Board of Governors’ Faculty Recognition Awards, one in 1981 for his book Furious Fancies: American Political Thought in the Post-Liberal Era (Greenwood Press), and a second in 1988, for his two books published in 1987, Seeking Many Inventions: The Idea of Community in America (University of Tennessee Press) and States of Perfect Freedom: Autobiography and American Political Thought (University of Massachusetts Press).  Among Phillip Abbott’s other awards are a Gershenson Distinguished Faculty Fellowship for 1989-90, a Distinguished Graduate Faculty Award in 1991, and the 1991 Michigan Association of Governing Boards of Higher Education Award.  In 2005, in recognition of his accomplishments as a scholar, Dr. Abbott was named Distinguished University Professor.

Phillip Abbott’s remarkable record extends as well to his teaching and to his service to the Department of Political Science, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the University.  Professor Abbott has taught a large number of different undergraduate and graduate courses including the required doctoral seminar in Philosophical Problems of Inquiry.  When a senior faculty member who had taught the Department’s course on the American Presidency retired in the mid-1990s, Professor Abbott agreed to assume responsibility for teaching the course and focused much of his subsequent research on questions relevant to the concerns of that course.  In recognition of the superb quality of his teaching, Dr. Abbott received a President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1990 and the University’s Graduate Mentor Award in 2005. 

Lastly, Phil Abbott has made huge contributions to the governance of the Department of Political Science, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the University as a whole.  Aside from when he has been on leave or phased retirement, he served as an elected member of the Department’s Policy and Personnel Committee and, as its Chair, every year since the early 1980s.  Professor Abbott served as the Assistant Dean and Graduate Officer of the College of Liberal Arts from 1978-1981, has served one or more terms on over half a dozen College Committees, and in 2001-02 was President of the Liberal Arts Faculty Council.  Professor Abbott was an elected member of the University Academic Senate from 1987 through 1999, and he chaired the Policy Committee of that body in both 1990-91 and 1995-96.  His service to the University also included membership on over thirty different standing or ad hoc committees.

In sum, Phillip Abbott has been an invaluable asset to Wayne State University.  His stellar reputation as a scholar and the status he conferred on the Department of Political Science, the College, and University is difficult to measure.  His contributions to his students and to University governance have been enormous.  It is with great sadness that I announce Phil’s retirement at the end of this academic year.

Daniel Geller

Political Science
2040 FAB 656 W. Kirby
Detroit, MI 48202
Phone: (313) 577-2630
Fax: (313) 993-3435
Website: clasweb.clas.wayne.edu/politicalscience
Email: ab8695@wayne.edu