Passion for politics inspires student fund
As a former candidate for the
United States Congress, Director of
the Goldfarb Center for Public
Affairs and Civil Engagement and
William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of
Government L. Sandy Maisel is one
of the most politically experienced
faculty members on the Hill.
Maisel, a Harvard University alum, has been intrigued by politics for the greater part of his life. "When I was at a very impressionable age, President Kennedy was running for office...[which was] an important part of our everyday existence."
Maisel's father also shared a strong interest in politics and once attended a dinner with President Truman, which only served to further Maisel's interest in government affairs. Politics, however, was not Maisel's sole aspiration for his future.
"There were three [other] things on my list: One was to be a rabbi; the second was to be a lawyer; and the third was to be a professor." Fortunately for Colby, only one of these careers panned out for the young man from Buffalo, N.Y.
For the past 38 years, Maisel has shared his passion for politics in the classroom with hundreds of Colby students and now several alumni have made sure that Maisel's dedication will not be forgotten.
At a recent birthday party for Maisel, a small group of alumni announced that they had created the Sandy Maisel Student Research and Internship Fund to honor a professor who had a lasting affect on their lives.
"You taught us how to think critically, how to examine and challenge assumptions, how to challenge authority and how to engage in life, whether in the political process or just in our careers," 1978 alum Daniel Hoefle told Maisel, when the group announced the fund. "We are so appreciative for all that you've done for us that we've started a fund in your honor.
We hope you'll take this gift in the spirit in which it's given--with great love and affection." A leading expert in American politics who is often contacted by reporters seeking comment or counsel on state and national political issues, Maisel was first offered a position on the Hill while writing his doctoral dissertation in Political Science at Columbia University.
He preferred to finish his education before accepting a job, but was asked to interview for the Government Department again the following year. Although he applied for positions at various institutions, Maisel was sure that he would be exceedingly happy at a small liberal arts school.
"I was hired here on a threeyear, non-renewable contract. At the end of the third year, two other people in the [Government] Department left, so they gave me another three-year contract and then after that I was given tenure." This lucky sequence of events has shaped the majority of Maisel's life and uniquely influenced his political career.
Although, Maisel began his career as an educator, he nurtured a dream of becoming involved in politics.
"By the time I was in college, I really decided that what I'd like to do more than anything else was be a member of Congress," Maisel said. He had earned internships and worked on campaigns when he was younger, but did not vie for a position in Congress until 1978. "My whole campaign was run by Colby students. They were terrific. It was a great experience for all of us." This inclusive act demonstrates Maisel's high regard for his students. A handful of seniors relinquished the majority of their time in order to run a campaign for a candidate and professor that they believed in. Although their efforts were unsuccessful, Maisel had the time of his life, yet he admits, "I would never do it again. Anyone who runs for Congress twice is crazy."
A former chair of the Government Department, Maisel began focusing his talents on directing the Goldfarb Center in 2003.
"The Goldfarb Center is set up essentially to bridge the gap between what people learn in the classroom and how they're going to take that into everyday life," Maisel said. He strives to bring two programs per week to the College, with the goal of intellectually stimulating students in a new way at each event. Maisel utilizes the connections he has formed over his 38 years as a professor of government to aid students in pursuing their interests.
"It's an incredible network and I think that a lot of what students will be doing after here involves networking, especially in this economy." Maisel's role in these particular endeavors is never difficult, since nearly everyone he knows is eager to assist a Colby student. "In five years, I have never made a phone call that the person didn't say, 'Yes.' "
Although Maisel's work keeps him busy, he also has another excuse to never leave campus: His wife, Patrice Franko, is the Grossman Professor of Economics and the Director of the Oak Human Rights Institute.
Both enjoy cooking, and "it's a rare weekend when [they] don't have someone over." Maisel's most recent honor, the Sandy Maisel Student Research and Internship Fund, is a testimony to the profound effect he has had on generations of students. "I think it's the greatest honor that I've ever received, because it was done by former students," Maisel said. Class of 1978 alumni Richard Abrams, Alan Donnenfeld, Daniel Hoefle, Douglas Kaplan, Susan Kenyon and Jeffrey Shribman created the fund and guaranteed $100,000, which will be matched by Trustee William Goldfarb '68, P'00. The money will fund programs at the Goldfarb Center that focus on student internships and research.
The tribute surprised Maisel, who was grateful to have been a part of the former students' educational experiences. "I think that what they're saying is that Colby has been very important to them," said Maisel.
Of all that Maisel has achieved in his life thus far, his dedication to his students has been the most beneficial to his successful career. "The Colby community becomes very much a family to the people who spend their lives here."