Gabriel A. Almond

Born: Jan. 12, 1911, in Rock Island, Ill.
Died: Dec. 25, 2002, in Pacific Grove

Posted on Tue, Dec. 31, 2002 story:PUB_DESC
G. Almond, Stanford professor
By Sara Neufeld
Mercury News

Academic circles around the country are remembering Gabriel A. Almond this week as a pioneer in political science and comparative politics.

Professor Almond, the longtime chair of Stanford University's political science department, died on Christmas Day, three weeks shy of his 92nd birthday.

Friends and family said Professor Almond was driven by a genuine curiosity about how the world works, incorporating sociology, psychology and other social sciences into the study of political science and expanding the field to include the study of Third World countries.

He was the president of the American Political Science Association. He received the award given to the greatest political scientist alive. Each year, the student in the country who writes the best dissertation on comparative politics receives an award bearing Professor Almond's name.

He also loved the Giants, played the harmonica and sang the blues as if he had lived every story, his family said.

Professor Almond was born to Russian and Ukrainian immigrants. The son of a rabbi, he was the third of four siblings and the only boy in the family. He grew up in Chicago, where he was editor of his high school newspaper.

As a student at the University of Chicago, Gabriel Almond worked odd jobs to support himself and his family, manning the desk at Jane Addams' Hull House, reporting for a jewelry journal and taking complaints at the department of public relief.

He thought he was bound to be a novelist. Thornton Wilder, the three-time Pulitzer Prize winner who lectured at the university, called him a natural. But the Depression turned Gabriel Almond to academia, where he was able to get a fellowship and an income.

He went on to get his doctorate, but the University of Chicago would not publish his dissertation, about the elite's influence in politics, because he refused to take out unflattering references to John D. Rockefeller, a major university benefactor. The dissertation was finally published in 1998.

While doing research for his dissertation in New York City, Gabriel Almond met a shy German immigrant named Maria Dorothea Kaufmann, a student at Columbia's Teachers College. They were married for 63 years before her death two years ago.

Professor Almond's publishing career spanned seven decades, in which he wrote or co-wrote 18 books and numerous articles. His work contains many references to the Old Testament.

He served in World War II and taught at Brooklyn College, Yale and Princeton before going to Stanford in 1963. He spent time all over the world, from Cambridge to Minas Gerais, Brazil. After a year at the University of Tokyo in the 1960s, the Almonds brought their Japanese housekeeper back with them to the United States, taking her in as a second daughter and introducing her to a political scientist whom she later married.

Professor Almond was so modest that Stanford marked his retirement by naming a children's library after his wife, a children's advocate who helped make Stanford one of the nation's first colleges to provide child care.

But he never really retired. He was pushing 80 when he went to teach in Kiev and explore his fascination with the political culture of the former Soviet Union.

In the weeks before his death, he completed a new book analyzing world fundamentalism and the eighth edition of his textbook, ``Comparative Politics Today'' -- both scheduled to be published next year.

Until the end, he did aerobics and stretching for an hour and a half three times a week as part of a cardiac rehabilitation program -- he had been an earlyiac rehabilitation program -- he had been an early bypass patient in the 1970s -- and often walked his cocker spaniel, Snickers.

"To see this kind of rigor and productivity into this late period of life is just breathtaking inspiration," his son Peter Almond said.

Gabriel A. Almond

Born: Jan. 12, 1911, in Rock Island, Ill.

Died: Dec. 25, 2002, in Pacific Grove

Survived by: Sister, Miriam Elson of Chicago; sons, Richard J. Almond of Palo Alto and Peter O. Almond of Los Angeles; daughter, Susyn Almond of Palo Alto; five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Services: The family and Stanford are planning a memorial service.

Memorial: The family requests that donations be made to the Cardiac Therapy Foundation, 4546 El Camino Real, Suite 218, Los Altos, Calif. 94022.