February 16, 2022

Dear Members of Our Campus Community,

It is with a heavy heart that I write to share with you the sad news that Professor Emeritus M. Stephen Weatherford passed away on January 9. Dr. Weatherford was a highly respected colleague on our campus, known for his eminence in the field of political science; his devotion to teaching and mentorship; his leadership as Chair of our Department of Political Science, Associate Dean of Social Sciences, and President of our Faculty Club Board of Directors; and his continuing active role as an emeritus, including serving as Faculty Adviser to the Dean. For more than four decades, he exemplified the research, teaching, and service mission of our university. We are forever grateful for his contributions to our academic community and our society.

Our hearts go out to his wife, Professor Emerita Lorraine McDonnell, and to all of their family members and friends, as well as colleagues and former students around the world. In his honor, our campus flag will be lowered to half-staff on February 24.

I am honored to share the following remembrance from our Department of Political Science.

M. Stephen Weatherford (1946-2022)

Stephen Weatherford, an emeritus professor of Political Science, died unexpectedly on January 9, 2022. He suffered a heart attack while taking his weekly sunset walk on campus, dying where he had been a proud member of the UCSB community.

As the first in his family to graduate from college, he received his BA in political science and social psychology from the University of Nevada-Reno. Stephen then attended Oxford University on a Fulbright, earning first class Honours in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. He received his Ph.D. from Stanford University, and joined the UCSB faculty in 1978 as an assistant professor.

Stephen was a scholar of American politics, a political economist, a political historian, as well as a student of democratic deliberation and education policy. His early research, based on public opinion data, focused on how individual voters' views of economic conditions influence their political behavior, and how those views are mediated through social class, interpersonal networks, and the media. However, Stephen soon realized that it was important to place individual-level opinion in a broader institutional and historical context. As a political historian, he examined presidential management of the economy, publishing studies on the economic policies of all the presidential administrations from Dwight Eisenhower to Barack Obama, and conducting archival research at eight presidential libraries. After years of discussing K-12 education policy with his spouse, Lorraine McDonnell, Stephen expanded his research portfolio to collaborate with Lorraine on several studies, including one on citizen deliberation about schools, and most recently, on the use of evidence in the development of the Common Core State Standards. After their retirement, they co-authored a book on the politics of evidence use in education policy.

Even more than being a researcher, Stephen valued being a teacher. Comments from former students after his death reflected his commitment to that role. They described his high scholarly standards and expectations that pushed them "not to settle for okay and to really do the work to make [their] research and writing better." At the same time, he was "both challenging and supportive," always "kind, encouraging, upbeat, and positive." Former graduate students noted how Stephen still influences their own teaching years later.

Stephen's continuing commitment to undergraduate education is reflected in the public service scholarship fund that he and Lorraine endowed for UCSB students participating in the UCDC and UC Sacramento programs. Their choice of this scholarship was partly because Stephen was grateful for the opportunity to intern in the office of a U.S. senator while an undergraduate, realizing how much that experience shaped his career choices.

Stephen Weatherford served as chair of the Political Science Department for seven years (1991-1998), and as an associate dean in the Social Science Division (2012-2017), continuing as a faculty adviser for three years after his retirement in 2017. Because Stephen was president of the Faculty Club board during the period it was remodeled and expanded, a celebration of his life is scheduled for Friday, May 20, at 3 pm on the Club patio.


Henry T. Yang