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Former ODU Professor Glen Sussman, Who Focused on the Relationship Between Politics and Environmental Policy, Dies at 71

By Joe Garvey

Glen Sussman, who researched the intersection of environmental policy and climate politics and served two terms as chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography during a nearly three-decade career at Old Dominion University, died on Dec. 31 due to Alzheimer's disease. He was 71.

Sussman came to ODU as an assistant professor of political science in 1992, was promoted to associate professor in 1997 and to professor of political science (American politics) in 2002. He was awarded a University Professorship in 2002.

He was appointed to a three-year term as department chair in 2000 and reappointed for another term in 2003. He retired from the University in 2019.

"Glen was a political scientist's political scientist, right down to the custom POLSCI license plate on his car," said Jesse Richman, associate professor of political science. "He helped develop the ODU political science program and published many books. He will be missed."

In an interview upon his retirement, Sussman said he tried to always make sure students didn't know what political party he belonged to because he wanted them to "learn how to think, not what to think." When he taught grad students, he said he worked to make sure that each one got a publication out of their seminar papers.

"Glen was a valued colleague, a great person and was totally committed to his teaching and to his students," said Jonathan Leib, interim dean of the College of Arts and Letters. "He brought deep knowledge and passion to his teaching and research about environmental politics and the presidency."

Judy Hinch, who took his politics of climate change class, attested to his ability in the classroom.

"He was a great teacher and wonderful man," she wrote in a memorial post. "I am so sorry to hear of his passing. The world will be less interesting without him."

Sussman's research focused on environmental politics and policy, environmental opinion, science and environmental politics, and the American presidency.

He was the author of six books, including three editions of "American Politics and the Environment," which he co-authored with Byron W. Daynes and Jonathan Page West; "White House Politics and the Environment: Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush"; and "U.S. Politics and Climate Change: Science Confronts Policy," both co-authored with Daynes. Those books were published between 2010 and 2016.

Additionally, he wrote more than 100 journal articles, book chapters, professional papers and research essays and participated in approximately 100 lectures, interviews, panels and speaking engagements.

He also conducted a survey research project concerning state legislators in coastal states and local lawmakers in Southeastern Virginia regarding their political orientations about sea level rise and adaptation strategies.

"I came to know Glen as a scholar and a gentleman," said Michael Clemons, professor and interim chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography, who worked with Sussman for about 25 years. "Over the years, many students have shared with me their warm thoughts and appreciation for Dr. Sussman's guidance. He loved ODU and the Department of Political Science and Geography, which had become so intertwined with his life."

Among the many honors he earned were:

  • Being one of ODU's nominees for the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award in 2003 and 2015.
  • Earning the College of Arts and Letters' Charles O. and Elisabeth Burgess Faculty Research and Creativity Award in 2013.
  • Being chosen to deliver the College of Arts and Letters' Senior Scholar Lecture in 2011. His topic was "Climate Change and American Politics."
  • Being awarded an Arthur Schlesinger Jr. Fellowship in 2006 to support research at the Kennedy Presidential Library. His focus was on environmental policy during the Kennedy administration.
  • Receiving the Virginia Social Science Association Political Science Scholar Award in 2004.
  • Winning the American Political Science Association/Pi Sigma Alpha Outstanding Teaching in Political Science award in 2002.
  • Earning the College of Arts and Letters' Robert L. Stern Award for excellence in teaching in 2002.

"Glen was a great person, a very good chair of the department, an excellent lecturer and someone deeply involved in environmental politics," said Christine Drake, Professor Emerita of Geography, who served for more than 42 years in the Department of Political Science and Geography and headed the geography program for many years.

A native of Southern California, Sussman earned his bachelor's degree in political science from UCLA, his master's from San Francisco State University and his Ph.D. from Washington State University.

Sussman is survived by his wife of 43 years, Elizabeth (Buffy) Masten.

A memorial service will be held at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 14 in the Yetiv Auditorium, room 1012, in the Batten Arts & Letters building. To plant trees in memory, visit the Sympathy Store. You can read Sussman's online obituary at this link.


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