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Leslie Lipson, political scientist and UC Berkeley professor for more than 30 years, dies at 87
15 Aug 2000

By Janet Gilmore, Media Relations

Berkeley - Leslie M. Lipson, an emeritus professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and an expert in political theory and comparative government who had a deep concern for societal ethics, died on Friday, Aug. 11, of prostate cancer. Lipson, who lived in Berkeley, was 87.

"Leslie Lipson was an important presence in the UC Berkeley Department of Political Science for more than three decades," said George Breslauer, dean of social science at UC Berkeley and a political science professor. "He wrote books on West European politics as well as political theory, books that reflected his commitment to combining in-depth empirical research with a concern for the great normative issues that face us in contemporary society. He was truly a scholar, a gentleman and a devoted and highly effective undergraduate teacher."

Lipson, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was born Nov. 14, 1912, in London and educated at Oxford University, where he received both his bachelor's and master's degrees. He received his doctorate from the University of Chicago.

His book, "The Great Issues of Politics," first published in 1954 (Prentice-Hall), was published in 10 editions, translated in numerous foreign languages, and used in the introduction to political science courses across the country.

His most recent book, "The Ethical Crises of Civilization: Moral Meltdown or Advance?" 1993 (Sage Publications), was an exhaustive work that analyzed the historical development of civilizations around the world in relation to their ethical choices. His goal, according to his son, David R. Lipson, was "to assimilate the lessons of history so as to create a pathway, in this age of high technology, to a more humane present and future."

David Lipson said his father devoted his life to the study of ethical choices by individuals and society.

Leslie Lipson joined the UC Berkeley political science department in 1950 and retired in 1984. Twice during that time, undergraduate students selected him as the best teacher in the department. Lipson also was credited with establishing stronger ties between faculty and students while he served as chair of the department's undergraduate program from 1977-1980.

Throughout his career, Lipson received numerous honors and awards, including, in June 1980, the Berkeley Citation. The award is given to individuals of extraordinary achievement in their field who have shown outstanding service to UC Berkeley.

In a nominating letter for Lipson, Chalmers Johnson, then-chair of the political science department, wrote:

"Lipson has been very appropriately described as a humanist, and this quality has permeated his life and his scholarship...He has also been an outstanding teacher. Not only does he have a warm, informal, and most effective speaking ability, but he has a genuine empathy for students.

"He has been a highly respected individual and colleague. He symbolizes integrity, devotion and service to all of us here who have known and respected him as well as his admirers worldwide."

Away from the campus, Lipson was active in the World Affairs Council of Northern California, wrote humorous "light verse" poetry, and shared his political expertise with broadcast and print media.

Lipson was a regular panelist and reporter on the Public Broadcasting System's weekly program "World Press" from 1963 to 1976. He covered the British press. As recently as January 1999, he wrote an op-ed piece for the San Francisco Chronicle on "The Free Market versus Democracy."

Lipson was the academic advisor of the Fromm Institute for Lifelong Learning in San Francisco from 1989 through March, functioning as faculty dean. He taught at the institute for 17 years, beginning in 1983.

Lipson is survived by his wife, Helen Fruchtman Lipson, of Berkeley; his son, David R. Lipson, of Mill Valley; and a granddaughter.

A memorial will be held at the campus's Faculty Club at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept.10. A scholarship, the Leslie Lipson Scholarship for the Study of Humanistic Values and Social Policy, is being established at UC Berkeley in his honor.

Donations may be made to The Leslie Lipson Scholarship Fund, c/o Law Offices of David R. Lipson, One Maritime Plaza, Suite 400, San Francisco, CA 94111.



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