Regents Professor Emeritus and former Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Frank Sorauf, passed away on September 5, 2013. As a political science scholar, Sorauf was a path-breaker, especially in his primary research fields of American political parties, campaign finance, and the courts, but political science was not his only love.
Frank Sorauf served as chair of the Department of Political Science from 1966 to 1969 and as dean of CLA from 1973 to 1978. His term as dean was marked by significant accomplishment, including productive reorganization and reallocation of resources. He vigorously supported the college's language requirement, because he saw languages as "the essence of our nature as human beings and our abilities to communicate" and as forming the basis of logic and knowledge. Under his deanship, graduation was decentralized to create a smaller, more intimate ceremony. As a result, Sorauf was the first dean of CLA to shake hands with every graduate who marched across the stage at commencement.
As a political science scholar, Sorauf was a path-breaker, especially in his primary research fields of American political parties, campaign finance, and the courts. He also brought his expertise to bear directly in the public sector. In the 1980s he was an academic expert to Senator Edmund Muskie's Task Force on Political Action Committees for the Twentieth Century Fund (now The Century Foundation); his work there led to a series of books and articles about campaign finance over the next two decades. In 2002, the Federal Elections Commission asked him to work with its lawyers to craft an amicus brief in support of the McCain-Feingold campaign reform act. The 92-page document he co-authored was cited six times in the majority opinion upholding the constitutionality of McCain-Feingold. He never stopped caring about campaign finance reform, and considered the recent Citizens United decision a mistake.
Sorauf published continuously, but a few of his books especially stand out. Wall of Separation (1976) examined the separation of church and state in Supreme Court deliberations. And his seminal textbook, Party Politics in America, originally published in 1968, is still in print and in use today. In recognition of his many signal contributions, the University named him a Regents Professor in 1991.
Political science was his career and passion, but it was not his only love. Sorauf was a devoted collector and scholar of Southwestern pottery, and pieces from his collection can be seen at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Weisman Art Museum. He served on the board of the Minnesota Opera and on the Minneapolis Library Board. A man of many parts, he was a fine pianist and even played semi-professional baseball in his youth.
When asked what Sorauf will be remembered for, his long-time colleague and friend Phil Shively mentioned his "trenchant" sense of humor, his love of art, and his insistence on the highest standards of academic achievement and integrity. Indeed, he was a citizen of the intellectual world.
Frank Sorauf did much to shape this college, this university, and his discipline. His passing is a great loss.
A memorial event is being planned for a later date.