George McGovern Was Once a Marquette University Professor

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Category: Marquette Law School History, Public
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George McGovern, a long time Congressman and Senator from South Dakota and the 1972 Democrat Presidential candidate, was briefly a member of the Marquette University faculty.

In the spring of 1996, McGovern held the Allis Chalmers Chair in History at Marquette University. In that capacity, he taught a course on the History of American Foreign Relations.

McGovern’s long service in Congress was not his only credential for such a position. After serving as a bomber pilot during World War II, he graduated from Dakota Wesleyan College in his native South Dakota, and later earned a PhD in American History from Northwestern University. Even before completing his PhD, he returned to Dakota Wesleyan as a professor of History and Political Science. He remained at Dakota Wesleyan until 1956 when he was elected to Congress from South Dakota’s First District.

Prof. McGovern’s course was quite popular with Marquette students, and his lectures were delivered in the auditorium in Cudahy Hall. In addition to the regularly enrolled students, the audience for the lectures always included a large number of “auditors” from across the university. In my first year on the law school faculty, I attended many of these lectures.

One of the best parts of the class was McGovern’s willingness to remain after his lecture and answer questions from the audience. As I recall, most of the questions came from the auditors, many of whom also expressed their appreciation to the Senator for his heroic stand against the Vietnam War more than two decades earlier. Many of those, like me, had cast their first vote in a presidential election in 1972.

Sen. McGovern passed away on October 21, at the age of 90. In 1972, the outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War lost the presidential election to incumbent Richard Nixon who prevailed in the Electoral College by a vote of 520-17. After the election, he continued to represent South Dakota in the United States Senate until 1981.

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