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Director Emeritus Samuel K. Gove, 1923-2011
Samuel K. Gove, director emeritus of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois, a founder of Illinois Issues magazine, and a longtime fixture in Illinois state government and politics, died early Friday, Jan. 28, in an Urbana hospital. He was 87.
Gove joined the Institute of Government and Public Affairs (IGPA) as a research assistant in 1950, just three years after the institute was created by resolution of the Illinois General Assembly. He later served as acting director three times before becoming director of IGPA in 1967, beginning an 18-year tenure.
“Sam Gove was a beloved colleague in IGPA,” said Robert F. Rich, the current director. “He was really Mr. Illinois and universally respected in our state, both in academia and in government for his many contributions. He will be greatly missed.”
Gove was active behind the scenes in Illinois state government for years. He directed the legislative staff intern program from 1962-73, was a member of several commissions and advisory boards and served on the Illinois Board of Higher Education. He also was a member of the transition teams for Governors Dan Walker and Jim Edgar.
“Sam was one of my mentors,” Edgar said. “If it hadn’t been for Sam Gove, there may not have been a legislative intern program and that was my entry (into public service).”
Gove founded Illinois Issues with Paul Simon and Samuel Witwer in 1975. He was founding chairman and served on the magazine's advisory board for 28 years.
“He was the embodiment of Illinois government,” said former Illinois legislator and comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch, a longtime friend. “He understood how all these pieces fit together (politically) but then always was involved in how it should work. He knew how to suggest things that would help to make it work better.”
While director of IGPA, Gove served in a variety of roles leading up to the 1970 Constitutional Convention in Illinois and led a team that prepared a series of research papers that established the issues for the convention. These papers included one titled “The Illinois Constitution: An Annotated and Comparative Analysis,” a 624-page analysis of the state’s 1870 Constitution written under Gove’s guidance by George D. Braden and Rubin G. Cohn.
“That became the bible for the delegates to the convention,” Gove said in a 2007 IGPA oral history.
“Sam was an institution in and around the state Capitol, where he was viewed by lawmakers as Mr. Good Government,” said Jim Nowlan, a longtime friend and colleague at IGPA. “He was a strong proponent of modernizing a legislature that had been condemned in national magazines for its backwardness, and Sam worked closely with legislative task forces to improve the legislative rules and provide professional staff for committees and lawmakers.”
Gove was also a member of the U of I faculty, beginning as research assistant professor in 1951 and became a full professor of political science in 1961. He served as acting director and director of the university’s Master’s degree program in public administration from 1987-89.
“Sam was co-author with Gilbert Steiner of Legislative Politics in Illinois (1960, University of Illinois Press), which was heralded by fellow political scientists as a path-breaking, dynamic analysis of the Illinois legislative process, a model for other scholars,” Nowlan said.
Samuel K. Gove was born in Walpole, Massachusetts, on December 27, 1923 a son to Minnie L. and Chester B. Gove. He grew up in a family that took civic responsibility seriously.
“I grew up in a family where we were supposed to understand Massachusetts government,” he said in the 2007 interview. “So we understood when the elections were and who was running and how the electoral process worked. As kids we would go to the Town Meeting and see government working in action.”
Gove attended Massachusetts State College from 1941-43 and served during World War II as a lieutenant in the U.S. Naval Reserve. He received his bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Massachusetts in 1947 and earned a Master’s degree in political science from Syracuse University.
“I never had an idea of being in academia,” he said. However, after working at the University of Chicago on a research project he was recommended for an assignment in Springfield where he met IGPA’s first director Royden Dangerfield.
“He asked me to come to campus and I did and eventually one thing led to another and I ended up being a professor, director and tenured. But that was never the game plan,” Gove said.
Gove served as executive secretary and program coordinator for the Illinois Legislative Staff Internship program, which was administered by IGPA, from 1962 until 1972, when the program was transferred to Sangamon State University (now the University of Illinois at Springfield). In 1990, Illinois Issues created the Samuel K. Gove Legislative Intern Hall of Fame to honor interns whose careers have exemplified public service. The Hall of Fame includes among its inductees Edgar, Illinois Auditor General William Holland, retired U.S. District Judge Wayne R. Andersen, state Senator Kirk Dillard and former Illinois Congressmen Terry Bruce.
“I am a little flattered. They have a ceremony every two years with the Gove Hall of Fame,” Gove said in the 2007 interview. “They’ve been holding it at the Governor’s Mansion and it’s a very pleasant affair.”
At IGPA, Gove was instrumental in conducting 17 statewide assemblies on various issues facing the state between 1957 and 1982. These assemblies, which placed legislators and other public officials together with academics to discuss common public problems, covered such issues as the future of state government and the Illinois Constitution. The 1962 assembly was a precursor to the 1970 constitutional convention.
Gove retired as IGPA director in 1985. He was awarded director emeritus status at IGPA in 1987 and professor emeritus in political science in 1989.
Survivors include three nephews and two nieces. No visitation or funeral services are planned, according to his family. However, a celebration of Sam Gove’s life will be planned at a later date.
“When you think about Illinois state government, you think about Sam Gove,” Netsch said.