David C. Leege, Emeritus Professor and Seminal Scholar of Religion and Politics Passes

Author: Greg Endicott

It is with sadness that the Department of Political Science announces the passing of David C. Leege, Emeritus Professor of Political Science and Foundational Scholar in the fields of electoral behavior and religion and politics in the U.S.

We have included his obituary here.

On May 18, 1937 in Elkhart, IN, Harold and Nellie (Bliss) Leege brought their last child into the world and named him David C. In Green Valley, AZ on November 20, 2021, he left this world for perpetual life with God in heaven. There he was united with both parents, sister Catherine and brother Philip. His beloved wife, Patricia, 85, survives along with Philip’s wife, Judith Driscoll and two Leege sisters, Josephine Martin, 92, and Melba Panhorst, 88.

David and Patricia A. (Schad) married on June 8, 1963 at Grace Lutheran Church in River Forest, IL where both were young faculty at Concordia Teachers College, she an organist and music teacher. They were blessed with 58 years of mutual love and respect. They have three caring children, David M. (Rebecca Chandler), Atlanta GA, Lissa (Frank D’Arcangelo), Statesboro GA, and Kurt (Hannah Davies), Castlerock, N. Ireland and five grandchildren, Micah and Emory, 19 and 14, Estelle and Julian, 11 and 9, and Seren, 5.

Leege received his BA from Valparaiso University in 1959 and his doctorate in political science from Indiana University in 1965, with the help of Woodrow Wilson Foundation and Indiana University doctoral fellowships. Dave also studied in advanced programs at U. of Chicago and Michigan. He later taught twice at Michigan for a summer program after his research methods textbook (Leege & Francis, Political Research: Design, Measurement, and Analysis) was published in 1971 by Basic Books.

Dave’s work as an academic institution-builder, teacher, and author/scholar took him to develop research institutes and public writing projects at universities mainly in the Midwest, East, Europe, and the National Science Foundation in Washington, DC. Through the various moves, summer residency in the Cottage Colony at Camp Arcadia, MI provided joyous times with friends from all over the country for fifty plus years.

At the University of Missouri, Columbia (1964-68), he established a statewide survey research center that conducted scholarly research for academic and statewide policy organizations. The unique feature of the center was that he also pieced together a publishing network of nearly 100 newspapers and other outlets.

All reports were archived under POSU (Public Opinion Survey Unit, University of Missouri).

At SUNY – Buffalo (1968-70) he established a statewide survey research center and data archive with emphasis on urban policy. At the University of Illinois- Chicago (1970-74) he worked on a joint public policy doctoral program with the Champaign-Urbana campus.

In 1974-76 while program director at the National Science Foundation, he midwifed the creation of the American National Election Studies and later chaired its Board of Overseers. ANES is the primary data resource for the opinions and choices of the American electorate from 1952 to present.

The University of Notre Dame assignment (1976-retirement in 2003) was far and away the most challenging – putting together new research and graduate study teams with research support that could build new areas of doctoral strength in the social sciences, humanities, and derivative professions (the institution was then called Center for the Study of Man in Contemporary Society).

After being cited as one of the U.S Academe’s 100 outstanding young leaders, by the American Council on Education, Dave’s assignments at Notre Dame turned more to continuity and problem-solving. He was assistant to the Provost for affirmative action hiring, visiting 18 campuses in the process, searching for recruits and reviewing policy. Then came a huge reorientation.

Reviewing results of the pilot project, Leege’s staff put together a new research team to design and complete The Notre Dame Study of Catholic Parish Life, based on nationwide probability samples. It captured parish traits and character, professional leadership, volunteer leadership, worship style and planning, measures of leadership and success. Results were arranged in a 15 part report series, written by Leege and one outside scholar each time. Critics from Catholic research circles also reviewed each report before publication. These reports were then summarized in a book by Msgr. Joseph Gremillion and journalist, Frank Castelli. At that point, the scholarly publication series, dissertations, and articles ensued. The most enjoyable part for Dave and the central research team was meeting with national and local leaders to review results.

During this period his teaching included establishing a foreign faculty exchange program in Leuven Belgium and directing the London Program for Notre Dame Arts and Letters undergraduates (including opportunities for UK government internships).

While the number of new academic programs at Notre Dame continued to grow, Dave took special delight in the creation of the Hesburgh Program in Public Service. Following a design of preparatory courses on the campus in policy, methods, and ethics, students took a semester in Washington D.C. with courses and an assignment to an agency. Many continued through the summer on paid assignment. By now, some have blossomed into Washington’s brightest journalists and policy analysts. Some are emerging party leaders. Only one, to Dave’s knowledge, could be judged as engaging in questionable ethical behavior—a measure of the success of the program. Dave and Pat supported the program with a prize for the top student each year. It was easy to succeed when Father Ted was the model.

Dave continued to receive undergraduate teaching awards, the Henkel Award for Outstanding Graduate Research, and a special citation for service to the Hesburgh Program. After taking a five-year assignment as the director of the Department of Political Science graduate program and expanding it greatly, he turned all his time to undergraduate and doctoral students. He was particularly attentive to recognizing the contributions of graduate student collaborators to writing projects.

Upon retirement in 2003, he and frequent collaborator, Kenneth Wald of University of Florida facilitated publication of 25 books as editors of a Cambridge University Press series--Cambridge Studies in Social Theory, Religion and Politics. They also published a landmark book of their own, Leege, Wald et al., The Politics of Cultural Differences (Princeton Univ. Press, 2002), where they document the displacement of economic conflict by cultural conflict as the dominant force in American elections since the time of Richard Nixon. Three years later the book received the American Political Science Association’s award for the best book in recent years on religion and politics.

On request, Dave continued to write background pieces for Tom Edsall to inform his column in the New York Times. Edsall was taken by surprise when in Sept.

2019, Dave outlined the components of a planned re-election coup that Pres. Donald Trump had been testing in various states. Jan. 6, 2021 pulled together the strategies that the former President and advisers felt were most effective.

Dave’s special joys in retirement included over a dozen years of service as a board member, and later chair of the Lutheran Music Program, and nine years’ board service with Grammy-nominated True Concord Voices and Orchestra. He worked especially on audience development locally and nationally. Dave and Pat set up small endowments to foster organ recitals, the learning of liturgical music and hymnody, and a special category, an endowment honoring the St. Olaf alums David and Lissa with special monies for focusing attention on First Article responsibilities of Christians for environmental and human rights initiatives.

Throughout these years, the Leeges came to understand the central role of cultural immersion in understanding the peoples of the world. Foreign study programs have become the academy’s principal instrument for this. Throughout the modern academy foreign study is the starting point for learning cultural respect and political rights.

Memorials may be directed to Camp Arcadia (J.S. Bach Fund for Lutheran Church Music) and Lutheran Summer Music Academy and Festival. Memorial services in Green Valley, AZ and Arcadia, MI will be announced at a later time.

To leave the family an online condolence, please visit the website for Angel Valley Funeral Home, Tucson, AZ.