Melnick Is Named O'Neill Professor

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

Boston College has named public policy scholar and former New Hampshire lawmaker R. Shep Melnick as the Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. Professor of American Politics.

A former professor of politics at Brandeis University, Melnick will be the first permanent appointee for the chair since it was established in 1979, according to Prof. Marc Landy, chairman of the Political Science Department.

Melnick's research focuses on judicial and legislative roles in American government and public policy, including executive branch elections, public law regulation and environmental policy. His 1994 book Between the Lines: Interpreting Welfare Rights examined the role of the courts in the welfare system.

"We're very excited about this appointment," Landy said. "A tenured, permanent O'Neill Professor can contribute greatly to our graduate program, and act as a mentor to our students. To have Shep as that person is a delight: He has done pioneering work in the area of politics and the judicial system, and he has a very deep interest in politics itself."

"There are a number of things which made me eager to accept this appointment," Melnick said. "One of the most important is that I view Political Science as a tremendous department with an opportunity to become one of the best around for the study of American institutional policy and political theory. There's a great tradition associated with that study and I think BC is among the few places to keep it alive."

Melnick, who served in the New Hampshire House of Representatives from 1975 to 1976 and as treasurer of the New Hampshire Democratic State Committee from 1982 to 1983, said it is "a great honor" to be associated with the name of a legendary and universally respected politician.

O'Neill Professor R. Shep Melnick.

"We can learn a great deal from the people in everyday politics, and Tip both understood and reflected this," he said. "He cared passionately about his beliefs and causes, but he was able to have a civil relationship with those who opposed him. My experience as a legislator was very brief, but like Tip I was impressed by the collective wisdom I saw there, and it helped me develop an appreciation for local politics."

Melnick recently completed editing a book of essays by prominent political scientists on the Progressive Era. He also is writing about the evolution of air pollution control policy in the United States between 1982 and 1994, revisiting a subject area he explored in his 1983 book Regulation and the Courts: The Case of the Clean Air Act.

"Shep has been very effective in his studies of the subtle role of courts in the political process," Landy said. "The Supreme Court occupies such a prominent place in most assessments of the relationship between politics and the judiciary. No one, however, paid attention to courts in a broader sense until Shep came along."

Melnick joined the Brandeis faculty as an associate professor in 1984, and was promoted to full professor in 1993. He also has been associated since 1978 with the Brookings Institution.

Melnick was educated at Harvard University, where he received a bachelor's degree in social studies in 1973, a master's in political science in 1978, and a doctorate in political science in 1980. He was an assistant professor and head tutor in the Government Department at Harvard from 1981 to 1984.

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