Samuel J. Eldersveld was professor of political science at The University of Michigan for 41 years and mayor of Ann Arbor for one term. Born in Kalamazoo, MI, in 1917, he passed away at his Ann Arbor home on March 5, 2010, age 92.
Eldersveld spent his formative years in Muskegon, MI, where his father was a minister. He received his A.B. degree from Calvin College in 1938, and his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from The University of Michigan in 1939 and 1946, respectively. A lieutenant in the Navy during World War II, he served as a communications officer in the Philippines, after which he returned to The University of Michigan, where he taught for 54 years. He joined the faculty as an instructor in 1946, became an assistant professor in 1948, associate professor in 1952, and professor in 1957. He was Chair of the Department of Political Science from 1964–70.
During his faculty tenure, Eldersveld was elected Mayor of Ann Arbor as a Democrat, and served for one term from April, 1957 to April, 1959. As mayor, he was instrumental in the creation of Ann Arbor's Human Relations Commission, committed to eliminating racial discrimination in housing, banking, business, and education.
His research took him around the world, where he studied the politics of India, the Netherlands, Sweden, Britain, Poland, and China, writing 22 books and numerous articles. Many honors included two university teaching prizes, and a national award for his 1964 book Political Parties: A Behavioral Analysis. The American Political Science Association in 1986 created a career achievement prize, named it in honor of Prof. Eldersveld, and honored him as the first winner. In addition, former students published Comparative Parties and Party Elites: In Honor of Samuel J. Eldersveld in 1999. Prof. Eldersveld chaired U-M's Political Science Department from 1964 - 1970, during which time he brought 30 new scholars into the department and helped to build it as one of the nation's three most highly rated programs.
Eldersveld was an active member of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church for six decades.
In the news
A University alum, Eldersveld taught at the University for about 60 years and was a stand-out mayor who worked toward providing equal rights for all Ann Arbor citizens. Throughout his academic career, Eldersveld also traveled to many countries throughout the world to further his studies and research in political parties, and wrote 22 books and countless articles. As Political Science Prof. Hanes Walton, Jr. put it, Eldersveld was an “absolute giant in the field (of political science).”
Ann Arbor lost a former mayor and longtime University of Michigan professor when Samuel Eldersveld died Friday of congestive heart failure. He was 92.
Memoir, University of Michigan Regents' Proceedings