Former Department Head Gerson Leaves Large Legacy

Louis Gerson
Louis Gerson

Photo Credit: Hearst Connecticut Media

Dr. Louis Gerson, 94, the political scientist and former department head who escaped the Holocaust as a teenager, died on October 16, 2016 in Southbury, CT. Gerson was a central figure in the post World War II development of UCONN; he was also active in local Democratic politics, serving on the Mansfield Democratic committee from 1969-1972. Yet perhaps his greatest legacy was as a member of the political science department – he taught courses over four decades and inspired many students to serve in various offices in Connecticut politics. Dr. Gerson also served as department head from 1967-77, and remained there until he retired in 1988.

Professor Elizabeth Hanson, now a Professor Emerita who still teaches in the political science department, offers her own personal reflections from her time as an assistant professor:

When I first came to UConn many years ago, Lou Gerson was the chair of the political science department. It was the last year of a decade in which he established the foundations of the department as we know it today. It was also a period of expansion. In 1969-70 alone he hired no less than 12 faculty members, most of whom received tenure at UConn and became notable contributors to the field of political science.

Alas, they were all men! In my first two years in the department I was the only woman in the 26-member department on the Storrs campus. Juicy anecdotes might be expected from this experience, but I cannot think of any. Lou was a supportive department head, and he must have set the tone that made me feel not just tolerated but also welcomed. My most vivid memories of Lou are around a table at lunch in the long defunct faculty club. He regaled us with his views on past and current U.S. foreign policy and always stimulated a lively discussion. It felt like we were talking to the Secretary of State and, in fact, I always thought he looked the part.”

Read this story, and more, in the Late Fall edition of the Department Newsletter.