Fadel Allssan, News Editor
Political science professor Herbert Hirsch, who galvanized generations of students and peers to confront the world’s most staggering and intricate questions, however grievous or opaque, died Jan. 21 after a stint of illness. He was 77.
Hirsch was an accomplished scholar and author whose expertise on genocide and human rights was revered in academia. The professor dedicated his life and research to understanding and precluding one of society’s most odious phenomena — political violence.
“He was always looking for ways to involve our students in our research,” said political science professor Judyth Twigg, who was a close friend of Hirsch’s. “His voice, his commitment to his colleagues and students, and most of all, his determination to rid the world of political violence, will be missed beyond words.”
Hirsch inspired those around him to be the best people and scholars they could be, developing strong personal relationships with those in his satellite. Students in the department often scrambled to register for his classes before their rosters reached capacity.
“I’ve never seen someone so passionate about their field day in and day out,” wrote Kaylin Cecchini, a junior political science major who took Hirsch’s genocide and human rights course, in a Facebook post. “I am grateful for the impact he has made on myself and the global community he was so intent on helping. We are worse without him, but better because of him.”
He is survived by his wife, Susan; son, Mark and daughter-in-law, Maureen; daughter, Karen and son-in-law, Tony Forte; daughter, Candy and son-in-law, Tony Taylor; daughter, April Sullivan; son-in-law and daughter-in-law, Thom and Anne Harrison; son-in-law and daughter-in law, Bob and Alison Massey and grandchildren, Matthew, Katie, Hannah, Holden, Genevieve, Mikey, Molly, Emily, William, Lizzie and Ruth.
“He taught me how to be a caring and compassionate person,” his daughter April Sullivan said.
John Aughenbaugh, a professor in the department who described Hirsch as a mentor to him, wrote about Hirsch’s impact on his life in his column on the political science Facebook page.
“When he first came to visit my office in another building on-campus, I was often … afraid that he was going to yell, tell me how I needed to improve or how he was unsure someone with a non-political science degree should be teaching politics,” Aughenbaugh wrote. “Eventually though, my fears were allayed as I recognized that beneath his rants and often sharp words was a person who cared deeply about me.”
Katie Bashista, an alumna and former Commonwealth Times editor, took politics in film with Hirsch and Aughenbaugh last semester. She said she enjoyed Hirsch’s “unique input.”
“Such an intelligent, interesting man with a great sense of humor,” Bashista said. “I’m lucky to have taken one of his classes. My thoughts are with his friends and family.”