Quantcast

Michigan State University

Michigan State University wordmark Michigan State University masthead graphic

2018-11-26

JMC is Saddened to Announce the Death of Alumnus Steven Kautz

To Madison Alumni—

The College lost Steve Kautz, a prominent alumnus, generous donor, and accomplished scholar, to cancer last week.  I wanted you to be aware of his passing and to let his friends know that plans are in the works for a special memorial in January hosted by his colleagues at the political science department and an academic reckoning with his work next fall.  The obituary is below.

Sherman Garnett, Dean

Steven J. Kautz, 59, passed away in his home after a 14-month battle with lung cancer on November 22, 2018, surrounded in his last days by family and many friends. He was born on January 30, 1959, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where his father was finishing his engineering degree. The family then moved to Wisconsin, and Steve spent a happy childhood in Germantown and Jackson, suburbs of Milwaukee. It was here he developed lifelong passions for reading and academics, baseball, and the Green Bay Packers. He was active in student government, golf and cross country. He graduated from Washington High School in Germantown as valedictorian in 1977. He went on to college in 1977 at James Madison College, Michigan State University, where he excelled as a student of political philosophy. He graduated in 1981 after winning a prestigious Truman Scholarship. He earned his Ph.D. from the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago in 1989, studying there with Allan Bloom, Saul Bellow, Nathan Tarcov, and other outstanding faculty. He went on to an exemplary academic career in Political Science, first at Emory University and later at Michigan State. He is the author of the book, Liberalism and Community, along with many articles on American political theory and Abraham Lincoln. He was working on a book on Abraham Lincoln when he passed away. Beyond being an accomplished researcher, he also excelled in both teaching and his service work. His passion for undergraduate education led him to serve in several significant leadership capacities at Michigan State University: he was the Associate Dean of the Honors College (2005-2007), the Director of the Ph.D. program in the Department of Political Science, and, most recently, the Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs in the College of Social Science (2014-2018). He was a many-year leader of a study abroad program that introduced hundreds of students to the politics and culture of the United Kingdom. Regardless of what position he was in, he worked tirelessly to inspire generations of students and put in place programs that will help many generations more obtain the best, broadest, and most challenging educational opportunities available. He saw his work with undergraduates, whether in the classroom or in administrative roles, as providing them an opening to the world of learning and the questions that ought to serve as the foundation for their lives as individuals, citizens, and professionals. He has hundreds of grateful students, with a special place in his heart for his graduate students, who have gone on to successful careers throughout the country.  His tireless shepherding of these graduate students will multiply his influence and legacy. He devoted himself and his work to the old- fashioned cause of liberty, especially the virtues of tolerance and respect for privacy. He was devoted to constitutional government, constitutionalism, and the rule of law, and he devoted his work to making our politics better and our political debates more civilized, whether in his teaching, writings, or in practical political work on the campaigns of his lifelong friend, Richard Cordray. When he was not working, Steve loved the theater, classical music concerts and opera. He was a devoted sports fan and enjoyed going to Tiger games. He loved visiting big cities, especially London and New York. He always had the latest gadgets, especially the finest television. He had an extraordinary gift for friendship, and anyone who was fortunate enough to experience this gift remained forever grateful for the time spent with him. He was an especially gracious host, entertaining and cooking for friends. He was also a devoted son and brother, proud of his family and dedicated to supporting his ailing mother Judy in her final days, who preceded him in death. He is lovingly survived by his father, Harry, and sister, Suzanne. Friends and family will host a celebration of his life at a later date in January.