Richard Hofferbert, distinguished professor emeritus of political science, dies

By Katie Ellis July 11, 2011

Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Political Science Richard Hofferbert, 74, died Wednesday, July 6, at his home in Florida. He joined the faculty at Binghamton in 1975, where he essentially established and guided development of the doctoral program in political science, with an emphasis on public policy analysis. He also served as director of graduate studies, director of the Center for Social Analysis, co-director of the Center for Comparative Political Research and acting department chair, retiring in 1997.

Hofferbert earned his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from Indiana University and taught at Williams College, Cornell University and the University of Michigan prior to coming to Binghamton. He was also a visiting professor and research scholar at a number of universities abroad, including the Berlin Science Center, the Free University of Berlin, the University of Mannheim, Bogazici University in Turkey, the University of Essex in Great Britain, the University of Lausanne in Switzerland and Strathclyde University in Scotland.

“Rick’s impact was felt and has an ongoing presence in ways beyond his scholarship,” said Michael McDonald, professor of political science. “He put together the package that still today funds the George Hinman Doctoral Fellowship for this department and his stay in Turkey in the early to mid-1980s played an important role in connecting Binghamton Political Science, and Binghamton University more generally, and Bogazici University, which came back to our large benefit when the dual-diploma programs were being set up and implemented.”

Michael McDonald called Hofferbert a luminary in political science, and one of the triumvirate of political scientists who brought policy analysis into the discipline and whose work helped to steer the discipline into new, more scientific and evidence-based forms of analysis.

“Binghamton recruited Rick to reorganize and reconstruct the doctoral program,” McDonald said. “As with everything else he did, Rick threw himself into it and put together what we enjoy and benefit from today. There could be no understating the contributions Rick made to the Department of Political Science at Binghamton.”

McDonald also credits Hofferbert with developing a master’s program in public policy analysis and public administration, allied with the PhD program. The master’s program, originally the Master of Arts in Public Policy Analysis and Administration, became what is today’s Master in Public Administration program.

Hofferbert’s early research, for which he was most widely known, focused on the impact of economic and political conditions on American state policies. He later expanded his focus to include comparable research in a number of non-American sites. His long-term research focus was on the linkage between governing institutions and public policy, in particular between political structures, party programs and policy products in advanced industrial societies, and between democratic institutions, human rights and public policy priorities in developing countries.

A prolific writer, he authored several books including The Study of Public Policy, The Reach and Grasp of Policy Analysis: Comparative Views of the Craft and Parties, Policies, and Democracy, and co-edited State and Urban Politics: Readings in Public Policy and Data Archives in the Social Sciences. His articles were published in leading journals including the American Political Science Review, Journal of Politics, Polity, Comparative Political Studies, the American Journal of Political Science, the Journal of Public Policy, the Journal of Democracy, International Political Science Review, Political Studies, the European Journal of Political Research, the British Journal of Political Science and many others. His professional papers numbered more than 70.

Hofferbert is survived by his wife, Rosemarie, and two sons, Mark Richard ’81, and Samuel Carter ’86, and their partners, one granddaughter, two great-grandsons, one sister and brother-in-law, two brothers and sisters-in-law and several nieces and nephews. There will be an informal gathering of friends and family on July 23, at his home at 571 Catalina Isles Circle, Venice, Fla. Arrangements are directed by the DeMunn Funeral Home and condolences can be sent to his family a Memorial contributions in his name may be made to the Department of Political Science, Binghamton University, PO Box 6000, Binghamton, NY 13902-6000.