Department of Political Science

College of Letters & Science

Robert Booth Fowler

Robert Booth Fowler is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.  He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University where he studied with V.O. Key, Michael Walzer, and Louis Hartz.  He joined the faculty at the University of Wisconsin in 1967 and he taught here until his retirement in 2002.

His research and teaching interests are political thought and religion and American politics. Among his books are The Greening of Protestant Thought; The Dance with Community: The Contemporary Debate in American Political ThoughtUnconventional Partners: Religion and American Liberal CultureCarrie Chapman Catt: Feminist Politician; Enduring Liberalism:  American Political Thought since the 1960s; Religion and Politics in America (with Allen Hertzke and Laura Olson), and Wisconsin Votes: An Electoral History. He describes his own intellectual perspective as a combination of diverse perspectives, “part Enlightenment liberal, part Burkean conservative, part Emersonian anarchist, and part religious existentialist.”

While Professor Fowler is an outstanding scholar, he also was an incredible teacher.  As Crawford Young describes in his centennial history of the political science department, “From the beginning of his career to its end, Fowler was one of the best and most beloved teachers in the department.  He was warm and friendly with individuals, dramatic and often spellbinding in the classroom.  He was equally well-received by freshmen, advanced undergraduates, and graduate students. He supervised or participated in supervising most of the theory dissertations written during his career in Madison, and his students include some of Wisconsin’s most distinguished alumni.”

Booth has touched many lives and below are several testimonials from Booth’s former students. The Robert Booth Fowler Professorship has been established and will honor this outstanding scholar and teacher. If you would like participate in honoring Professor Booth Fowler, to make a gift please contact Katie Rather at 608-572-2009 or or visit


Did Professor Booth Fowler have an impact on your life? If you would like to share your story please contact Beth Shipman



Jane Klewin Grimm, Class of 1980

Professor Fowler was the best professor I had at the UW and he surpassed all of my professors in law school (Northwestern).  As you know, he was just extraordinary.  He made every student feel he or she was special, starting with him learning all of his student’s names, even in the large Introduction to Political Theory class I took early on.  I took three classes from Professor Fowler and wished I could have taken many more.  It didn’t matter the class topic, I knew I would sign up for any class he was teaching.  Like you, I too learned to be a better writer from Professor Fowler.  As important, I learned to be a better and more disciplined thinker.  It was in the first class I took from him that I, for the first time, got a real taste of “the life of the mind.”  It was so exciting!  I have a vivid memory of walking down the lake shore path after one of his intro political theory classes, feeling so alive and excited about school and life in general!  Professor Fowler and I corresponded for a number of years after I graduated (only losing touch after I failed to write him).  I know he had to have corresponded with so many other former students as well.  His ability and desire to connect with his students on a personal basis was astounding. He is such a kind person and I so enjoyed his sense of humor.  There is no other person who has had such an important, positive effect on my education and intellectual life.  I am honored to contribute to the named professorship in honor of Robert Booth Fowler.  

Michael Zis, Class of 1992

Few people, and no other teacher, has positively impacted my life as much as Booth. Thanks for organizing this effort on behalf of the greatest teacher that's ever lived.  I say that sincerely, for I've known no better.

Peter Kaplan, Class of 1993

Booth and Donald Downs were the two professors who I consider myself to be blessed to have learned from at UW.

Christopher Chapp, Class of 2002

I am now a professor of Political Science myself (at St. Olaf College) and am quite sure I never would have found this vocation had it not been for Booth. He has been a mentor and a role model as both a scholar and a teacher. He also inspired a love of inquiry that has only grown since I took my first class from him...

Michael McLendon, Class of 1992

Like so many, I was changed by his classes (I actually became a professional political theorist) and would like to honor his legacy.

Matthew Shinners, Class of 1987

I was pleased to read in North Hall News that a Booth Fowler Professorship will be established.  I am one of those who benefited greatly from Prof. Fowler’s guidance.  As a first semester freshman taking Calc 221, Chem 103, English Lit and Honors intro to Political Thought I quickly realized my passion was for poli sci.  That was in no small measure due to the thought provoking and rigorous nature of Prof. Fowler’s class.

Brian Kind, Class of 1991

I recently read in the North Hall news of the creation of the "Professor Fowler Professorship".  I am very glad to hear of it.  As a former student I was one of the many grateful to have experienced multiple classes from Professor Fowler.   I, like many others, consider him the highlight of my UW experience as he was everything one thought a university professor should be.  He was, and is, at once inspiring, thought provoking, and approachable.  He could present a myriad of political opinions and thoughts without the need to "disarm" any of them, and let history and political thought come alive in his classrooms, for the students to digest and contemplate fully. His friendly open door always lead to earnest discussions and always revealed his true care for his students and their intellectual development.

Joe Blackbourn, Class of 1983

As it happened, my first political science class would be an elective as I was a Biochemistry major.  Based upon my roommate’s suggestion, I was most eager to take “Contemporary Political Thought.” In those days, class registration required that we show up at North Hall, which I ran to, in order to get into the class.  I walked up to the desk, which was staffed by three people and of course the class was oversubscribed already.  So I pleaded with them.  I said, “I really need this class.”  One of the staff asked me why and I went off on this oratory claiming that everyone says “Fowler is the best” and this is the only class in the department that I desperately want to take.  He decided to take pity on me and said he would see what he could do.  And then I was horrified upon walking into my first lecture, my mouth hanging open as the merciful staffer walked up to me and introduced himself as the Professor.  After three years and as many of his classes as I could take, I graduated with a degree in Political Science.  In the interim, I cherished his wit, his Socratic teaching style and his genuine concern that his charges learn to think as opposed to memorize. Priceless stuff. 

John Porter, Class of 1983

What I most recall from my time with Booth is how much better a writer he made me through poking, prodding and challenging my thinking and my prose. I frankly thought that I was an excellent writer when I enrolled in his class; Booth quickly disabused me of that notion. On a more jocular note, I will also remember Booth finding me before class one day early in the semester and asking me if I knew what the word “gams” meant. I responded that they referred to a young lady’s legs. He said “I knew that a fellow like you would know”, spun on his heel and went to start the lecture. That, too, was Booth!

Michael Harrison, Class of 2000

I recall the shock in attending one of my first classes freshman year at UW, and Professor Fowler explaining that he would be teaching us about classical philosophers in the first person, before transforming himself into Socrates. Any concerns that I had about sitting in boring lecture halls with droning teaching assistants were dismissed by his engaging and unique style that made these great thinkers come to life. One particularly memorable moment took place on beautiful spring day that allowed Professor Fowler to take the whole lecture class for a walk on Bascom Hill. For this lecture, Professor Booth took on the person of Edmund Burke, one of the fathers of conservative thought. Even though I fundamentally disagreed with most of Burke's tenets, I gained a new appreciation for the conservative approach in a way only Professor Fowler could bring about. To me, this was what college was supposed to be about: becoming absorbed in new ideas that lead us to look at things differently and consider alternative viewpoints.

Chris Larus, Class of 1988

I first met Professor Fowler when I took his Religion in Politics class during my sophomore year.  He was a brilliant and engaging professor who challenged me to think critically about challenging subjects.  He was also someone who cared deeply about forming personal relationships with the students he taught.  I am truly grateful that he took the time to get to know me and provide me mentorship.

Gregory Reed, Class of 1983 & 1988

What other professor memorized every student’s name within the first week of class and then called on you by your first name while lecturing? While admirable it was equally disconcerting since he would appear to be facing one side of class only to ask someone a question sitting behind him! Unsure if you had that experience but it certainly guaranteed that I did all of my required readings and was readily prepared for his class! His keen intellect and kind regard for every student remains forever etched in my mind.

David Redlick, Class of 1972

UW, and in particular the Political Science Department, played a wonderful role in my education and preparation for life.  And the most important person for me at UW was Professor Robert "Booth" Fowler.  To this day, I remember and prize what he did for me as a mentor, teacher and friend.