University of Rochester

Political Scientist Appointed to Watson Professorship

November 30, 1999

Richard G. Niemi, professor of political science who specializes in voting behavior and civic education, has been appointed the Don Alonzo Watson Professor of Political Science.

Niemi's latest book, Civic Education: What Makes Students Learn (with Jane Junn) documents how much students know about a wide range of political and civics topics. How and what young people learn about the American political system is one of Niemi's long-standing interests.

After graduating from Lawrence College (now Lawrence University) in Appleton, Wisc., with a bachelor's degree in government, Niemi received his doctoral degree from the University of Michigan. He joined the Rochester faculty in 1967 when William H. Riker, then the department chair and a teacher of Niemi's at Lawrence, recruited him.

Niemi has been the recipient of many grants and fellowships, including those from the Ford Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. Besides his book on civic education, Niemi is also the co-author of books on voting patterns, legislative districting, public opinion, and statistics on American politics as well as the author of more than 100 articles on these topics.

A benefactor of the University of Rochester, Don Alonzo Watson (1807-1892) endowed a professorship to acknowledge achievements in the study of political science and history. Watson was a successful Rochester businessman and co-founder with Hiram Sibley of Western Union.

Members of the Rochester faculty who have held the professorship include the late Christopher Lasch, author and historian, and Richard F. Fenno, Jr., an authority on the U.S. Congress.