Dr. William A. Ritchie
Time at Western Michigan University: 1964-2001
A native of Huntington, West Virginia, Ritchie earned his B.A. from Marshall University and both his M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Michigan. He defended his dissertation, a study of the political theory of the British thinker, Henry Sidgwick, in 1960. After teaching at the University of Delaware for a few years, Ritchie began his long career at WMU in 1964. Apart from one semester as a visiting professor at the University of Texas, Ritchie remained on the faculty at WMU until his retirement in 2001.
A specialist in political theory, Ritchie also enjoyed teaching an array of courses on European politics and history both at the upper undergraduate and graduate levels. Ritchie was one of the principal architects of the department’s Ph.D. program and insisted that political theory have a prominent place in it. Both as a teacher and a member of many thesis committees, Ritchie was a mentor to many WMU students and remained in contact with a few of his most cherished students until his passing. His emphasis on “straight to the point” and “less is more” resonated with many of his students.
Beyond the classroom, Ritchie took an active part in advocating for civil liberties and civil rights in the Kalamazoo community. A long-time member of the Kalamazoo chapter of the ACLU, Ritchie also chaired the chapter for several years. Being in a leadership role kept him at the forefront of contentious issues. According to his wife, Beatrice Clark Ritchie, Ritchie was especially unhappy about the ACLU’s legal support for a U.S. neo-Nazi party’s planned march in Skokie, Illinois.
Ritchie was very fond of his department and university and participated in campus life in many ways. He contributed to and co-edited several volumes published by WMU’s New Issues Press, including The New Europe and the World (1993)and The American Constitution at the End of the Twentieth Century (1996), and delivered numerous lectures on campus. An active member of WMU’s Faculty Senate, Ritchie also served on the Political Science department’s Executive and Graduate Committees.
Being a professor and working with other political science faculty was a highlight of his life. His colleagues remember him for his fine wit, incisive intellect and all around love of life.
“He was a philosophical, staid, and a quietly loving individual…I must say that his mentorship and then being chosen to receive the Distinguished Alumni award for my work in creating Social Capital has propelled me into a life of continuous volunteerism.” Jeffrey Margolis, WMU B.A. Alumnus (1966), student and friend of Professor Ritchie.
“Bill’s wide-ranging interests and many contributions to the intellectual life of our department were living expressions of his conviction that political theory and political science are deeply complementary. I am so fortunate to have had him as a mentor and a friend.” Emily Hauptmann, Professor of Political Science, WMU.
The William A. Ritchie Memorial Fund recognizes undergraduate and graduate students for excellent papers in the field of political theory. The Ritchie Prize in political theory is awarded annually.