John J. Pitney Jr. has been named the Crocker Professor of American Politics. Regarded among students and colleagues alike as a caring, dynamic professor whose classroom leadership flexes an effective blend of substance and entertainment, Pitney is described as "a gemone of CMC's prize assets," by Professor Charles Lofgren, named the first Crocker Professor in 1975.
The Crocker chair, established 30 years ago through a gift from the late Trustee Roy P. Crocker, was designated for a faculty member at the intersection of American politics and American political history, "which describes both Jack and me," says Lofgren, who continues at the College as a professor of American history and politics. "Jack is unequalled in his command of California and national politics," says Lofgren. "He is a perfect match for the Crocker Chair, and I'm immensely pleased to see him become its second occupant."
Since joining CMC in 1986, Pitney has established himself as a prominent figure among political commentators and experts in state and national politics, as well as a mentor whose standards and grading practices demand that his students be careful, direct, and forceful in their writing. "And, as he does with his scholarship," says Joseph Bessette, the Alice Tweed Tuohy Professor of Government and Ethics, and chairman of the Government department, "Jack brings to the classroom his vast knowledge of political history as well as of the current political scene."
Faculty repeatedly point to Pitney's record of exemplary scholarship when mentioning his new professorship. "He is one of our country's leading academic experts on concrete, real-world issues of campaigns, elections, and politics in the United States," says Bessette. "He is an outstanding and innovative teacher, a regular recipient of CMC-wide teaching awards. His door is always open, and his students invariably develop and enhance the interest in politics with which they entered CMC."
"Professor Pitney is one of the most dynamic and passionate professors at CMC," says Alexei Laushkin '07, whose own interests in politics led him to serve as a delegate at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. "If a student is interested in politics or how to make a difference in society, Professor Pitney is the first person they speak with."
Pitney is the coauthor and author of many articles and books including The Art of Political Warfare, examining the relation between political actions such as campaigning and the strategy and tactics of warfare, and Congress' Permanent Minority? Republicans in the U.S. House. Completion of a forthcoming government textbook titled American Government: Deliberation and Citizenship, in collaboration with Bessette, is expected in 2006 for college textbook publisher Wadsworth.
During his tenure, Pitney also has established a role as one of the most frequently quoted political scientists in the United States. A recent department survey reports the professor as being mentioned in 51 major newspapers in 2003, and tracked by Lexis-Nexis 337 times more than all other 207 political science professors at the top 20 liberal arts colleges combined.
Says Bessette, "He provides a civic education to the world outside our classrooms."
Pitney says his interests in American politics began as a child in Saratoga Springs, New York, listening to his grandfather's tales of local political intrigue. "He was very active in the politics of my hometown," Pitney says. "He told me many stories, including some of the shenanigans that went on in the early part of the 20th century, and I found those stories fascinating."
In 1968 he parlayed his boyhood interests into his first campaign activity, handing out Nixon pamphlets on a street corner; many campaigns later, he weaves an inside view of politics with a love of teaching that has inspired scores of students. Pitney has been honored with the Glenn R. Huntoon Teaching Award three times, and has been the recipient of the Richard M. Shure award for excellence in teaching.
Pitney received a Ph.D. in political science from Yale University, served as deputy and acting director of research for the Republican National Committee, and was on the staff of then-Rep. Dick Cheney. His areas of expertise include American politics, California politics, Congress, electoral politics, government and the environment, and the Presidency.
This approach to serious instruction and appreciation for debate and discussion have found a home at the College: "One of the nice things about CMC is its diverse group of students. Over the course of four years," he says, " you will hear your point of view challenged."