Obituaries

Prof. Michael Burgess

Our research committee is saddened to learn of the death of Professor Michael Burgess and extends its condolences to Prof. Burgess’s family.

Professor Burgess was one the best known scholars of federalism worldwide. He was also a founding father of RC28 and an active member of the Committee ever since. The field and RC28 will be much poorer without him.

A tribute by Soeren Keil, Member of the Executive Board of RC28:

In Memoriam – Professor Dr Michael Burgess (1949-2018)

MDB1I first met Michael when I started my Masters’ degree at the University of Kent in September 2005. I had just arrived in the UK, my English was poor, and I was very uncertain if the choice to come to the UK (and Kent) was the right one for me. As part of my Fresher’s week at Kent, we met all academic staff one evening at a drinks reception. Michael was always surrounded by students, and what surprised me was how easily accessible and approachable he was. Of course, back then I did not know how senior of an academic he was, I just really liked him as a person. He was speaking to all students, he was interested in their background, and what touched me most – he was passionate about his own work on federalism, and strongly promoted his modules on federal theory and federal countries. I did a Masters’ degree in International Relations, so choosing Michael’s two classes on Comparative Federalism and Comparative Federations was not a natural choice. I chose them, because I found him so open, friendly and motivated. The classes did not disappoint and before long, I became deeply interested in the field of federalism, decentralisation and devolution.

The conditions of studying at Kent at the time were great. Michael arrived in January 2005 after many years at the University of Hull to set up a new James-Madison Trust funded Centre for Federal Studies. This Centre would turn into an elite research institution, and it would produce many fine scholars (and myself of course).

What Michael did during the years I worked with him is guide me in the direction of the kind of academic I wanted to be. His ability to take his work extremely serious, but not take himself too seriously in the process, remains an inspiration until today. His motivation and inspiration in his Master classes resulted in my decision to write my MA thesis on federalism in Bosnia. A topic widely ignored in the substantial academic literature on post-war Bosnia, it would take me an additional three years and a PhD thesis under Michael’s guidance before I had at least some clue of understanding Bosnia as a federal model. But these three years were some of the best of my life. Working as a PhD student on a scholarship, teaching as a seminar leader for Michael’s undergraduate EU class, and using every opportunity I had to discuss aspects of federalism, daily politics and general life with him contributed to my thorough enjoyment of my PhD years. What is more, I got to study with some great people, friends who became academics and scholars in their own right. And I got to see the Centre for Federal Studies grow, as a research centre with many publications (between 2006 and 2012, Michael published a book every year or two), and as a training centre for the next generation of Federal Scholars (and again, myself). Michael and his wife Marie-Louise, who worked as an Administrator for the Centre, made every student’s life at the Centre enjoyable, fun and rememberable.

When I graduated in 2010, I had already left the Centre – and academia – to work with asylum seekers, something Michael supported (he knew how tough it was to get a job in academia at the time), but something that he always said should be time-limited and he pushed me to keep applying for academic jobs, always referring to “the right time, the right place and the right person”. When I finally got my first academic job at Canterbury Christ Church University, he was delighted. With his career coming to an end, and the Centre winding down with Marie Louise leaving and him retiring shortly afterwards, he was thrilled for me.

MDB2And I was thrilled to be able to include him in some of my work at Canterbury Christ Church University. He taught in our summer school on federalism for many years (and always got the best student evaluations – not that he cared!), he spoke at an event about federalism and populism in Europe that we organised, and he met and discussed with many of my own PhD students.

There is no doubt that his academic legacy will live on. His 2006 book on Comparative Federalism remains probably the leading study in the field, and his 2012 book on the Federal Spirit has opened up a whole new research agenda on new federal models and the role of federal political culture in established federations. His work on European federalism, particularly when first started in the 1980s in Thatcher’s Britain, remains second to none, and everyone who wants to understand the deeper meaning behind the evolution of the European Union must read his book on Federalism and the European Union.

I was lucky enough to show my admiration for him when I edited the book “Understanding Federalism and Federation” together with Alain Gagnon, his long-term friend from Montreal, and Sean Mueller, another former PhD student of Michael, which was published in 2015. In it, we collected papers from some of the finest minds on federal scholarship, and the appraisal they had of Michael’s work at times brought me close to tears. The good news is that the book brought Michael close to tears as well, I remember when Alain, Sean and I told him about the project and how surprised and honoured he was about it. Funnily, we could only tell him about the book once we had signed the contract and all authors were on board, because we were afraid he would not let us go ahead with the project otherwise (and he indeed tried to convince us that it was not necessary).

In recent years, both his health and the political developments have taken their toll. He has been ill for most of the last three or four years, but he was a fighter. He fought prostate cancer, despite a terminal diagnosis, he fought a severe lung infection, he fought internal bleeding as a result of the radiation from the cancer treatment. He truly was a fighter.

MDB3One fight he did not win was with his own country. Michael was more than an academic, when it came to examine the British relationship with the rest of Europe. He saw it as his mission to educate the British about the EU as a federal peace project, a Kantian utopia that came to life. That battle he lost, but he did not lose his humour, as the picture demonstrates.

He will be remembered for this, as a fighter, as an inspiring academic, teacher and mentor. And as a funny and joyful friend.

Michael Burgess passed away on the 4th of February 2018. He is survived by his wife Marie Louise, his son Adam, and a whole generation of scholars that he trained, motivated and inspired.

Farewell my friend, Farewell my mentor, Farewell my professor!

Dr Soeren Keil completed his PhD under Michael Burgess’ guidance between 2007 and 2010. He is now a Reader in Politics and International Relations at Canterbury Christ Church University.”

6 February 2018


Prof. Robert Young

Our research committee is saddened to learn of the death of Professor Robert Young and extends its condolences to Prof. Young’s family.

Professor Young was a leading scholar of Canadian and comparative federalism and a long-standing member of RC28. The field will be much poorer without him.

A tribute by C. Lloyd Brown-John, Founding Chair of RC28:

“Robert (Bob) Young was a unique intellectual. A deep and profound thinker with the unusual capacity, for an academic, of being able to communicate with a much wider public audience than most academics. He was an intellectual communicator and an avid critical evaluator of both Canadian federalism but of complex political systems in general.

With his sharp eye and remarkable mind he was able to offer profound comment on both the works of others who he encountered and simultaneously extend constructive addition or flavor to another’s thinking.

I would rank him among the top Canadian academics in the filed of federalism and comparative political systems analysis. His role as a critical observer will be difficult for younger academics to fill. As well, those of his students who now may benefit from his instruction will be able to thank his memory for his skill as an instructor. He was a fine scholar.”

Other tributes are available on the website of the Canadian Political Science Association.

1 November 2017


Prof. Alfred Stepan

Our research committee is saddened by the recent passing of Professor Alfred Stepan and extends its condolences to Prof. Stepan’s family. Professor Stepan made major contributions to the study of federalism, such as his seminal distinction between ‘coming together’ and ‘holding together’ federalism, and we all owe much to his research and scholarship.

Obituaries are available on the website of the Chicago Tribune and St Antony’s College, Oxford.

23 October 2017


Prof. Richard L. Cole

Professor Richard L. Cole (1946-2017) passed away in Texas on 8 January from complications of cancer. He is survived by his wife, Norma, and three children. Richard had a long involvement with RC28, the last being at the 2014 IPSA meeting in Montreal when he coauthored two papers on RC28 panels. Richard received his Ph.D. from Purdue University in 1973, was an assistant and associate professor at The George Washington University (1973-1979), and served as Dean of the School of Urban and Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Arlington (1980-2008). He retired in 2016. His specialties were urban affairs, federalism, and intergovernmental relations in the United States. During his 44-year career, he published in many prominent journals, including the American Political Science ReviewAmerican Journal of Political ScienceJournal of Urban Affairs, and Publius: The Journal of Federalism where he authored and coauthored 17 articles—the last being “Citizen Evaluations of Federalism and the Importance of Trust in the Federation Government for Opinions on Regional Equity and Subordination in Four Countries,” Publius: The Journal of Federalism 46:1 (2016): 51-76. Richard was a much-loved teacher, colleague, and friend who will be missed by all who knew him.

13 January 2017


Uwe Leonardy

One of our top international experts on federalism and European Union affairs, Uwe Leonardy, sadly passed away on May 15, 2016. Uwe Leonardy, whose career in public service spanned 35 years, held degrees in law and political science. Following his retirement from office as a German public servant in 1999 he continued to work on the issues that interested him for many years, which included EU reform and German constitutional legal issues.

From 2000 – 2009, he served as Vice-Chair of our Research Committee 28, then called Comparative Federalism and Regionalism, of which he had been a member for many years. Specifically, he worked to promote RC28’s cooperation with the Forum of Federations, for which our Committee is very grateful. As part of that cooperation, he attended many conferences on different continents and was always a very valuable and thoughtful contributor to the discussions. Uwe took part in the founding conference of the Forum of Federations in Mont-Tremblant, Canada (1999), and he also attended their international conferences in St. Gallen (2002), Brussels (2005), and Delhi (2007). He also attended many World Congresses of IPSA, where he served as chairman and discussant on many of our panels aside from presenting his own work and was instrumental in handing the RC 28 leadership off to new scholars and practitioners, while continuing to assist and advise with great dedication and a wonderful sense of humour.

His vast practical experience in Germany coupled with a strong research focus was a great asset, which he used in contributing to the constitutional development in South Africa, where he worked as constitutional adviser from 1993 – 1997. During that period, he became very good friends with South African scholars and practitioners, including Dirk Brand, who Uwe among others brought to serve in the RC 28 Executive. Dirk vividly remembers interesting discussions about the new constitutional arrangements and everything that had to be put into practice. Uwe had a sharp legal mind and could articulate complex issues very well.

Uwe was an experienced constitutional scholar who authored a long list of publications in German and English, which were published in countries such as Germany, India, South Africa, and Canada. His scholarly contributions serve and will continue to serve as a valuable resource. His voice will surely be missed in the many international fora where he was well-known, including the activities of RC28. We pay tribute to a great federalism scholar and practitioner.

15 July 2016


Prof. Ronald L. Watts

It is with great sadness that we learned of the death of Professor Ronald L. Watts, a leading scholar on federalism, who passed away on 9th October.

You can find an obituary on the website of Queen’s University.

Tribute by John Kincaid at the Memorial Service for Ronald L. Watts at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, 30 October 2015:

Donna Watts, members of Ron’s family and Donna’s family, distinguished friends and colleagues of Ron.

I’m not worthy to stand in the shadow of such a towering figure as Ronald Watts. But I convey the sincere condolences and warm remembrances of all members of the International Association of Centers for Federal Studies.  The association also assembled for Donna its members’ spontaneous responses to the sad news of Ron’s death.

Ron was a world-renowned scholar, a status achieved early in life. He was an outstanding and highly respected student of federalism and intergovernmental relations worldwide.

To me, Ron was also Mr. Canada.  Ron embodied the best of Canadian values; he was proud to be Canadian; and he never shied away from letting people know that.  When he met President Bill Clinton at a Rhodes Scholar reunion, what impressed Ron most was that Clinton asked him a question about Canada.

One of the first works I read by Ron was his 1987 article in the Journal of American History comparing Canadian and American federalism. The article reminded us that there are two important federal countries north of the Rio Grande.

Earlier, I had worked with Ron in my capacity as Associate Editor of Publius: The Journal of Federalism on recruiting his 1986 article on “The Macdonald Commission Report and Canadian Federalism.” This article marked Ron’s return to federalism scholarship after a ten-year hiatus as Vice Chancellor and Principal of Queen’s University.

Ron’s best-known work internationally is his Comparing Federal Systems. Its third edition appeared in 2008.  I fondly recall the inscription he wrote in the copy of the book he sent me.

Comparing Federal Systems is the most widely cited book on comparative federalism and will be cited for many years ahead. The book captured attention in part because it is elegantly simple, free of jargon, and unencumbered by faux intellectualism. Ron had a gift for communicating complex ideas straightforwardly.

This is one reason why he was frequently invited to summarize and critique conference proceedings. He was always thorough, accurate, logical, and fair. By the end of Ron’s conclusion, I would think: “Oh, so that’s what this conference was really about.” Indeed, we should have asked Ron to read all the papers in advance and give us an insightful 30-minute commentary so we could spend the rest of the day out on the town.

Ron’s commitment to federalism scholarship also was reflected in his role as a founding member of the International Association of Centers for Federal Studies (IACFS) in 1977.  There were ten founding centers, of which Queen’s University’s Institute of Intergovernmental Relations was one.  Ron and his friend Dan Elazar gave the association its initial vitality. Ron also served as the association’s president from 1992 through 1997. The association, which meets every year in a different country, still thrives at age 38. Ron attended almost every conference. Those conferences will not be the same without his thoughtful, gracious presence.

Ron also helped found the Research Committee on Comparative Federalism and Federations (RC28) of the International Political Science Association. He remained a member for the ensuing 30 years.

How can we account for Ron’s passion for federalism and intergovernmental relations? These subjects bore most people. If you have insomnia, open a book on intergovernmental relations. Ron’s passion for federalism, I believe, stemmed from his passion for peace, democracy, and the dignified coexistence of the diverse peoples who inhabit our planet.

About 40 percent of the world’s people live in a federal arrangement, not counting the European Union as a quasi-federation, and seven of the world’s eight territorially largest countries have a federal structure. China is the exception.

Most important, federalism, especially federal democracy, seeks to achieve unity while preserving diversity by combining shared rule with self-rule. Unity requires peace; peace can be achieved by a covenant guaranteeing the continued identities and cultures of diverse peoples united by a federal arrangement in order to achieve democratically the goals they need to achieve together in a common polity rather than killing or oppressing each other because of language, religion, nationality, or skin color. Ron knew full well that the path to federal democracy lies not in revolutionary romanticism but in the nuts and bolts of constitutional design, institutional structuring, and cooperative intergovernmental relations, along with what German federalists call Bundestreue.

This passion also accounts for Ron’s many non-academic pursuits. Ron worked on issues of federalism and constitutional design in many countries, some of which, such as South Africa, have succeeded. Among others, Ron addressed federalism challenges in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, the former Yugoslavia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Cyprus, Pakistan, India, Nepal, and, most recently, the Solomon Islands. Just mentioning these places makes one realize both the importance and the difficulty of Ron’s chosen work.

Ron also was a founding board member of the international Forum of Federations from 2000 to 2006. He helped develop the Forum’s intellectual capital and its Global Dialogue on Federalism—a joint program of the Forum and International Association of Centers for Federal Studies. The Global Dialogue involved thousands of scholars, government officers, and students in cross-country discussions of federal ideas and practices. The Global Dialogue also produced nine scholarly books and popular booklets on different facets of federalism around the world.

Ron’s founding roles in the IACFS, IPSA’s RC28, and the Forum testify to another side of Ron’s lifetime contributions, namely, his skills as an institution builder. All three of these institutions, which are the leading international organizations dedicated to federalism, owe a tremendous debt to Ron.

Ron was the most pleasant and gracious academic I have known. During a career, one develops many relationships, but only a few blossom into genuine affection. Ron was a man for whom I have great affection.

My wife Lucille and I also enjoyed spending time with Donna and Ron outside of conference rooms. Lucille enjoyed, too, exploring different countries with Donna while Ron and I conferenced all day. Outside the conference venues, I discovered different sides of Ron. One vivid memory is of renting ATVs in the Brazilian jungle. In the rainforest, I realized that Ron was born not only to be a scholar but that Ron also was born to be wild.

Ron had a largeness of spirit, an openness to young scholars, and a generousness of heart that endeared him to all. Having started my academic career late, I was a 35-year-old assistant professor when I met Ron.  He welcomed me on the same footing as seasoned colleagues.

Because of Ron’s abundant personal and scholarly qualities and his happiness to mentor young scholars, the International Association of Centers for Federal Studies voted without dissent last week to name its young researcher award after Ron. It is the only award made by the association. The Ronald L. Watts Young Researcher Award will be one of Ron’s many lasting legacies. This annual award will evoke fond memories for Ron’s fellow federalism fans, though it will not change the fact that we will miss you very much, Ron.

Thank you for having enriched our lives.

30 October 2015


Prof. Frank Delmartino

Our research committee is saddened by the death of Professor Frank Delmartino, a prominent scholar on federalism and a former vice-chair of RC28, who unexpectedly passed away on 21 June.

You can find an obituary on the website of the University of Leuven: http://soc.kuleuven.be/fsw/nieuws/obituary-em-prof-dr-frank-delmartino

A Tribute to a Creative Colleague, Frank Delmartino, (1939- 2015)

By C. Lloyd Brown-John, Founder and former Chair, IPSA Comparative Federalism Research Committee.

Frank came into my life through the International Political Science Association and a call for papers for the 1982 World Congress in Rio de Janeiro.

I had been intrigued by the apparent tendencies of some federally constituted states towards greater centralisation while others, Canada included, appeared to be moving competencies more to component units of federal political systems.

The panel, as proposed, was to consist of six papers. Frank Delmartino, already sensing the immense political shifts emerging in Belgium, proposed a paper, which I accepted, paving the way for our first meeting in Rio de Janeiro.

Rio attracted a wide range of participants. It also tended to divert attention away from the IPSA World Congress and to the local beaches… However, on the day of our Comparative Federalism Panel, the weather did us a great favour – it rained in Rio! The room was packed with academics interested in federalism. So enthusiastic was the turnout, then IPSA Secretary John Trent suggested I propose the creation of an IPSA Study Group. Within weeks our proposal was submitted, with Frank Delmartino as one of the Executive Members of the proposed Study Group.

I then tapped into the list of World Congress attendees and developed a book proposal, “Centralising and Decentralising Trends in Federal States” (University Press of America, 1988) [IBSN: 9780819168955], which eventually appeared after a meeting with the late Dan Elazar and our joining forces with his federalism circles. Frank was a key contributor and served as a second reader for several contributions, especially those pertaining to Europe.

Between the Study Group’s founding in 1982 and the IPSA World Congress in Paris in 1985, the first annual conference of the Study Group was convened in Murten, Switzerland (1983). Frank Delmartino was co-chair.

By 1984, the Study Group was attracting a wide range of scholars. So Frank and I proposed the Study Group be upgraded to a Research Committee in time for the 1985 Paris IPSA World Congress. We organised three panels for that Congress, chaired by Dan Elazar, Frank Delmartino and myself. Also in 1985 I settled into a sabbatical in Luxembourg, which included a visiting professorship at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and therefore allowed Frank and I to work together more closely.

From 1985 onward Frank’s astute mind and enthusiasm propelled the new IPSA Research Committee into several new endeavours including our tradition of an Annual Conference. He provided a constant source of ideas, critical comment and intellectual stamina. Between us we organised annual meetings including a crucial meeting in Brugge from which emerged the book Federal-type Solutions and European Integration (University Press of America, 1995) [ISBN: # 9780819195494]. Frank Delmartino reviewed every essay in that collection prior to publication but did not ask for credit. Indeed, he proved an often modest colleague who worked hard on everything he undertook while keeping to a behind-the-scenes role.

In the years that followed I was able to spend time in Leuven on several occasions, where Frank and I worked on aspects of the developing European idea and tended to the enormous efforts of Belgium’s complex federalising process through a non-profit organisation known as the Coudenberg Group.

It was in those years that I was a guest at the Delmartino’s home in Leuven for a lovely dinner. It was also during this period that, unable to join us, Frank assigned his oldest son Dirk to guide me through some of the wonderful beers available in Belgium. Dirk Delmartino later attended my course in Comparative Federalism at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, as part of the Erasmus programme.

During another sabbatical in 1993 and after the Comparative Federalism Research Committee was involved in a project focused on South Africa’s emerging new constitution at the Kwa Maritane Conference Centre in South Africa (1993), the Delmartino family offered my wife and I use of their summer cottage in the Ardennes. We left Frank and family a small legacy for across the road was a herd of dairy cows, each of which we named along with a matching challenge for Frank and three sons. While this may have had nothing to do with federalism, the herd concept did become a theme…

Frank Delmartino was serious and studious but he also had a lighter side. Over the years, we spend many joyful hours debating Europe’s future, which became Frank’s passion. His personal contribution to the development of the IPSA Comparative Federalism Research Committee was both enormous and highly valued. Without his wisdom and support it would have been a much more difficult task. I will always remember him as friend, colleague and exceptional quiet advisor.

Dr. C. Lloyd Brown-John, Founding Chair, IPSA Comparative Federalism Research Committee.

Lloyd is currently Professor Emeritus (University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada) and, most recently, the founder and Director of Canterbury ElderCollege.

10 July 2015


Prof. Richard Simeon

Our research committee is saddened by the recent passing of our longtime friend and RC28 member, Richard Simeon. We extend our condolences to Richard’s family. Research and writing on Canadian and comparative federalism would not be the same without him. Please visit IPSA’s obituary to learn more about his life and contributions.

30 October 2013


Prof. Juan Linz

Our research committee is saddened by the recent passing of Professor Juan Linz and extends its condolences to Prof. Linz’s family. Research on federalism, multilevel governance,  decentralization, and related topics owes much progress to the writings and teachings of Prof. Juan Linz. Please consider adding your tributes to IPSA’s obituary.

6 October 2013