St. Olaf College | News

Retired Professor of Political Science Charles Umbanhowar Sr. dies

UmbanhowarCharlesSr300x400Associate Professor Emeritus of Political Science Charles Umbanhowar Sr., who served as St. Olaf College’s pre-law advisor for 25 years and helped establish the Great Conversation program before retiring in 2004, died January 5. He was 75 years old.

A celebration of his life will be held at a later date.

Umbanhowar earned a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and a master’s degree and doctorate from the University of Chicago. He taught for four years at Syracuse University and seven years at Idaho State University before joining the St. Olaf faculty in 1978.

At St. Olaf, Umbanhowar’s courses focused on American politics, American constitutional law, political philosophy, and international law. He engaged students with a range of academic interests, and his courses were known for being popular, demanding, and stimulating.

In addition to his teaching, Umbanhowar played a key role in developing new programs and courses, chaired key college committees, and served as an advisor to hundreds of students — including many who went on to pursue a career in law. He also served as the first director of the college’s signature Great Conversation program.

In the 1980s, Umbanhowar collaborated with Carleton College faculty members Michael Zuckert and Ruth Weiner to write and produce nine half-hour radio dramas based on the correspondence between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, a specialty of Umbanhowar’s. With the support of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, these shows were distributed to public radio stations across the country.

Umbanhowar’s son Charles Umbanhowar Jr. has been teaching biology at St. Olaf since 1991.