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Sam Gove passes on

Friday, Jan 28, 2011 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I spoke to the Institute of Government and Public Affairs last year and afterwards Jim Edgar asked me to lunch. I insisted that Sam Gove join us. I’d never really talked to him before and he didn’t disappoint. Clear headed with a great sense of humor and lots of stories. A true Illinois giant has passed away

Samuel K. Gove, director emeritus of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois, founder of Illinois Issues magazine, and a longtime fixture in Illinois state 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 was founding chairman of Illinois Issues, and served on the magazine’s advisory board for 28 years.

“He sort of 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.


  1. - Kevin Fanning - Friday, Jan 28, 11 @ 4:04 pm:

    Sam Gove was a great man. He was a mentor to many, and helped bring generations of young people into politics. He didn’t stop with the creation of the legislative internship program. He was instrumental in developing the Civic Leadership Program in Champaign and was one of the people who interviewed me when I first applied. He was a wealth of knowledge and will be sorely missed.

  2. - 47th Ward - Friday, Jan 28, 11 @ 4:09 pm:

    He was a very bright bulb in the chandelier of Illinois politics and government. My condolences to his friends and family.

  3. - A Springfield Veteran - Friday, Jan 28, 11 @ 4:11 pm:

    Sam was, what is refered to in academe,as a practioner/scholar; A person who engages in scholarly work but also is aware of reality. He remained a contributer to his profession in his advanced years. I remember the last time we had lunch in Champaign; he was alert to Springfield facts as he was to Springfield gossip. He loved it. He was of help to me in the final stages of my Ph.D. and I will be forever greatful. Our state will miss his counsel and his contribution. He accomplished what we all hope to; to contribute throughout our lives.

  4. - wordslinger - Friday, Jan 28, 11 @ 4:22 pm:

    Find something you love, and you never work a day in your life.

    He was an accomplished scholar and author, but also an in-the-trenches, passionate force for using our brains and incredible resources to build this great state. We all benefit, every day, from the life’s work.

    That’s a full life and that ain’t bad. Salud.

  5. - Katiedid - Friday, Jan 28, 11 @ 4:36 pm:

    What sad news! He was a great man and you couldn’t find anyone who knew the details more than he did. As a former legislative intern myself, I just have to say Thank you, Sam, and Godspeed!

  6. - Commonsense in Illinois - Friday, Jan 28, 11 @ 4:53 pm:

    …and just when we needed more people of unquestioned integrity. Sam was the sparkplug of many careers. He will be greatly missed.

  7. - Rather Be Golfing - Friday, Jan 28, 11 @ 5:34 pm:

    OMG! This caught me completely off guard. I was a research assistant to Sam back in the day, and was extremely fortunate to work with him on many projects after I moved to Springfield. I am indebted to him. Illinois is indebted to him. As everyone has commented thus far, he was a great scholar, colleague and friend. I will never forget him. Illinois should never forget him.

  8. - Paul Richardson - Saturday, Jan 29, 11 @ 2:13 pm:

    Sam Gove was on the three panel selection committee at the U of I when I applied for the Civic Leadership Program.

    As soon as I sat down in the interview chair he was the first one to say a word, “So you’re from Kankakee? Tell me the three Illinois Governors that came from there?”

    I knew Ryan and Shapiro right away but blanked on the third. All I could remember was mumbling something about the “the newspaper guy.” (Len Small)

    But Sam smiled and said, “Close enough. Nice job.”

    Put me at ease immediately..

    I may never have had a connection to the Capitol Fax without him.

  9. - J.D. Bindenagel - Sunday, Jan 30, 11 @ 7:01 pm:

    I am greatly saddened by the passing of my mentor in Illinois politics, Sam Gove. As an undergraduate student, I worked at the Institute of Government and following my military service returned to earn an MAPA degree there. Sam even welcomed me back to Champaign some 32 years later when I returned to Champaign for a visit after my Foreign Service career, which was far afield from Springfield. Springfield was excellent preparation for foreign affairs and my career was greatly influenced by Sam. I will miss him and his sage advice.
    Ambassador J.D. Bindenagel

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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