"Avery Leiserson Day" to honor prominent Vanderbilt political expert

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Avery Leiserson, a distinguished Vanderbilt University political scientist who brought national recognition to his department through a variety of leadership and service roles, will be honored Nov. 1 at a campus reunion of his colleagues and former students.

"Avery Leiserson Day" will include a roundtable discussion with several of his former doctoral students who have become highly respected political scholars, according to Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science George Graham. The discussion, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Calhoun Hall, Room 109. In addition, there will be a "roast and toast dinner" that evening at the University Club to honor Leiserson, who is 90 and still lives in Nashville.

Leiserson, a professor of political science, emeritus, came to Vanderbilt from the University of Chicago in 1952 and served as department chair for 11 years. He had been recruited by Chancellor Harvie Branscomb to build a new department that was oriented toward a university doctoral program. He had a strong influence on the growth of political science at Vanderbilt as well as at the national level.

Leiserson served as president of both the American Political Science Association and the Southern Political Science Association, and he helped found the Tennessee Political Science Association. He recruited many outstanding professors and was part of a reform-minded faculty group that produced documents about University governance and tenure. The group also was the first to propose a Black Studies Program in the College of Arts and Science. Leiserson was honored with the Harvie Branscomb Distinguished Service Award in 1967.

Leiserson’s numerous publications include The American South in the 1960s, Parties and Politics and Administrative Regulation. He served as editor of the Journal of Politics and book review editor of the American Political Science Review.

Some of Leiserson’s returning former students who are now political scientists include: Robert Grady II, Eastern Michigan University; Ed Portis, Texas A&M (former Vanderbilt faculty member); Harold Bass, Ouachita Baptist University; John Jackson, Southern Illinois University; William Garriott, Centre College; and Emmett Buell Jr., Denison University. Lee Sigelman, political scientist at George Washington University and current editor of the American Political Science Review; J. David Woodard, Clemson University; and Joe Sills, retired director of the U.N. Information Center in Washington, D.C., are other former students of Leiserson who plan to participate. Vanderbilt emeriti faculty who worked with Leiserson include Erwin Hargrove, Harry Howe Ransom and Benjamin Walter. Also returning will be Daniel Grant, a former Vanderbilt faculty member who helped to develop the plan adopted by Nashville for its Metro government in 1962.

For more information about the Leiserson tribute, contact the Vanderbilt Department of Political Science at (615) 322-6222.

Media contact: Ann Marie Deer Owens, (615) 322-NEWS annmarie.owens@vanderbilt.edu

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