University of Delaware

In memoriam

David Ingersoll remembered as teacher, scholar, friend


2:25 p.m., Feb. 25, 2016--David E. Ingersoll, professor emeritus of political science and international relations at the University of Delaware, died Feb. 15, 2016, at his home in Sonoma, California, surrounded by his loving wife, Josy, and stepchildren, Jamie Deiner and Mike Deiner.

His family said that he struggled against many physical illnesses and pain but that he always had a ready smile and a willingness to counsel friends and family. He was described as a wonderful teacher and a generous friend.

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Prof. Ingersoll taught political philosophy at UD, where he was a member of the faculty from 1964 until his retirement in 2003, and inspired generations of students, including U.S. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. During a speech on campus in 2014, and during many other visits to his alma mater, Biden singled out Prof. Ingersoll as one of his most influential teachers and mentors.

Prof. Ingersoll was born and raised in Chicago, where he lived with his parents, Edna and Joseph Ingersoll, and his sister Grace, just blocks from Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs. He loved baseball, as well as gardening, his many well-cared-for pets, good food, opera, politics and travel.

He earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy from Carleton College in 1961 and his doctorate from Claremont Graduate School in 1964, the same year he joined the UD faculty.

Prof. Ingersoll received the University’s Excellence in Teaching Award in 1970, served as chair of the Department of Political Science and International Relations from 1974-79 and was named a full professor in 1987. He served as vice president of the Faculty Senate and a member of the General Council.

“Chairing the department, David hired me in 1976 and was a primary reason that I left Penn to come to UD,” recalled James Magee, Judge Hugh M. Morris Professor Emeritus of Political Science and International Relations. “He did everything he could to help my transition. Above all, however, David was a masterful teacher and mentor whose influence on thousands of students and many colleagues has been profound.”

Leslie Goldstein, Judge Hugh M. Morris Professor Emerita of Political Science and International Relations, also remembered Prof. Ingersoll as “a stellar teacher, who touched many people's lives deeply.”

He published widely in political philosophy on topics as diverse as Machiavelli’s The Prince¬†and American legal realism, and his most celebrated scholarly accomplishment was in the realm of political ideologies. He was the sole author of Communism, Fascism, and Democracy (1971), a book that became the foundation for a widely used text on ideologies, The Philosophic Roots of Modern Ideologies, which he co-authored with two of his former students. At the time of his death, Prof. Ingersoll was working on the final touches of the fifth edition of that book, approaching the mid-century mark for the ongoing publication of a book project.

His family said that his many scholarly accomplishments were less important to Prof. Ingersoll than the fact that so many of his students went on to teaching careers, motivating future generations to follow in his path as an educator, and to positions of political leadership. Many of his students continued to seek his advice and to treasure his friendship long after his retirement.

In addition to his wife and stepchildren, Prof. Ingersoll is survived by his daughter-in-law, Suling, and son-in-law, Rich, and four grandchildren, Miles, Natalie, Maya and Russell.

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