The College of Behavioral and Social Sciences and the Department of Government and Politics (GVPT) remember with great fondness our departed friend and colleague, Professor Don C. Piper. Professor Piper passed away at home on Oct. 29.
Professor Piper joined GVPT in 1964 as an assistant professor, and was promoted to associate professor in 1967 and to full professor in 1969. He served as chair of GVPT from 1968 to 1974, and was named as acting chair for the Fall 1995 semester.
Many UMD colleagues credit him for initiating groundbreaking change in the department.
“Don Piper, in his first year as chair of the department, convinced the dean of the college to begin the transformation of the department from a sleepy Southern bastion of conservative political science to one which would reflect where the discipline was heading into the future. He hired newly-minted political theorists James Glass and Charles Butterworth, and even more astonishing, several “quantitative types,” among them myself,” said Professor Emeritus Jonathan Wilkenfeld. “Although Don himself was a product of that earlier type of political science, he recognized where things were headed, and what it would take to compete successfully for talented faculty and graduate students. GVPT was never the same again.”
Among many leadership roles, Professor Piper served as GVPT’s director of graduate studies, and was the co-director of the Middle States Self-Study. He was a member of the Executive Committee and of the Steering Committee of UMCP.
“Don was one of the first people to welcome me to the department. I remember him as a genuinely nice person with a sense of humor and a twinkle in his eyes,” said Associate Professor Virginia Haufler. “One of my fondest memories is of many spring graduation ceremonies, where Don always served as the University Marshall because he was so tall! He cared a lot for students, and loved the University of Maryland and College Park.”
Professor Piper was awarded the UMD President’s Medal in 1992 for his extraordinary contributions to the intellectual, social and cultural life of the campus, and for his dedication to teaching and service to the campus community.
“Don Piper—a fine administrator, academic and terrific Chair of this department—was responsible for many first-rate hires in this department. He brought in Jon Wilkenfeld, Charles Butterworth, Ron Terchek, Peggy Conway, and Richard Claude, among others; all went on to productive and distinguished careers as scholars, teachers—and in the case of Jon, chair of this department,” recalls Professor James Glass. “Don hired me effective January 1970. Piper had a vision and commitment to excellence that had an enormous impact on the future of the department after his term as chair. He encouraged collegiality and innovation, supported his faculty with the dean and higher administration, and gave much of his time to service to the university as a community.”
After many years of dedicated service, Professor Piper retired from UMD and was awarded Emeritus status in 1997.
“Don was such a kind and humble person to everyone. He always had a sense of calm in his voice. He loved his family and spoke of them often,” said Cissy Roberts, assistant to the chair of GVPT. “A fun fact about him is that he was on the search committee for the head football coach in 1991, which resulted in the hire of Coach Mark Duffner. Don was well-known and well-loved throughout campus. He changed our department, moving it forward.”
The BSOS community offers our sincere condolences to Professor Piper’s wife, Rowena, and to his family and friends.