UI professor leaves a lasting impression


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At 84 years of age, Professor Emeritus Gerhard Loewenberg is showing no sign of slowing down. Despite having been retired since 2003, he is still actively involved in the Political Science Department at the University of Iowa.

“The more you immerse yourself in politics, the more you want to learn about it and teach other people about it,” he said.

Loewenberg teaches the freshman seminar “How Democratic is the U.S. System of Government” and administers the publication of the Legislative Studies Quarterly, while continuing his research in what interests him most:  European legislatures.

His most recent published work was Moved by Politics, a memoir consisting of 12 firsts in his life, which was published in late October. Loewenberg said the idea started when he wanted to let students know they shouldn’t be discouraged about starting their careers after college. He then wrote a story for his graduate students about first job as a teacher. His wife encouraged him to think of other firsts in his life and turn them into a memoir.

“I quickly thought of other beginnings that were important to me in the long run. I enjoyed doing it,” he said.

Among the many firsts discussed in the book is his coming to America in 1936 with his parents to escape Jewish persecution.

“I was very young — 7 years old — so I don’t really have many memories except that I was very surprised that my parents decided to leave,” Loewenberg said.  “At 7 years old, it seemed like a wonderful adventure to leave and to come to America, and in retrospect, it was extremely lucky that my parents [saw] that Jews would not survive in Germany and the persecution would not stop.”

Loewenberg grew up in New York City during some of the most politically exciting times in American history, including World War II and the Great Depression. He said the time in which he grew up contributed greatly to his interest in politics. He came to teach at the UI in 1970 and has been here ever since.

UI student Conner Mars, who was in Loewenberg’s first-year seminar last year, said it was because of Loewenberg he was inspired to stay a political-science major when he had doubts.

“When I picked up the poli-sci major, I was kind of worried,” he said. “He was kind of a role model to me, [and] just seeing how professional he was just kind of motivated me, I guess, and I’m still in poli sci.”

Mars said he appreciated many aspects of the way Loewenberg ran the class.

“I think some [political-science] professors, you can figure out what side they’re on super easy, but with him, he’s just super professional,” he said. “He was really, really big on having everyone participate at least a little bit. He had everyone involved.”

Associate Provost Tom Rice, who also studied under Loewenberg when he was earning a Ph.D., said he encourages any students who have the chance to study under him to jump at the opportunity.

“He was the kind of professor that give professors a good name,” Rice said. “He was the kind of professor that you imagine universities to be filled with.”

Rice said one of the best things about Loewenberg is that he genuinely cares about the well-being of the student and would always go the extra mile to help.

“I would urge any student who hasn’t met him to fight hard to get into his seminar,” he said. “He’s without question one of the best mentors or teachers I have had and I continue to go to him for advice and thoughts. He’s just a very smart guy, thoughtful, helpful, and very generous with his time.”

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