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In memoriam: Frank T. Colon, professor of political science

Frank T. Colon, an admired Lehigh professor of political science for more than 40 years, died this week.

Colon joined the Lehigh faculty in 1965 as an assistant professor of government, specializing in urban politics as well as in state and local government. From 1987 to 1993, he served as chair of the department of government, the predecessor to the current department of political science.

“I was privileged to have Frank Colon as a colleague for over 20 years,” says Rick Matthews, chair of the department of political science. “No one knew more about state and local politics than Frank. He was a walking encyclopedia of information, stories, insights and knowledge about politics.”

During his tenure, Colon was the director of Lehigh’s Washington semester program, for which he received the Washington Semester Program Award of the American University in 1990. He also previously served as director of the Robert A. Taft Institute of Government, was president of the Northeast Political Science Association, and had been appointed to the Pennsylvania Humanities Council.

“One of Frank’s strengths as a teacher and adviser was that he took a real, heartfelt interest in his students as individuals with their own history,” Matthews says. “He would start the conversation simply asking them where they were from, and once he had that tidbit of information, given his detailed knowledge of state and local politics, he could talk to them about their hometown, the politics of the area and what it was like living there.”

Colon was an active and valuable member of the Lehigh Valley community, involved with civic, educational and community groups, where he labored to provide opportunities in civic and political education. He served on the current Board of Supervisors for Hanover Township and was previously involved in the Hanover Township Democratic Association, the Democratic County Committee, the Council for Community Action and the Boy Scouts, among others.

“Frank Colon was, like all political scientists, a keen observer of politics,” says colleague Albert Wurth, associate professor of political science. “But, in addition to the academic perspective, he had an understanding of the relationships between elected officials and citizens that could only have come from his years of experience in the everyday life of a local legislator.

“His service to his community translated into knowledge that benefited his students and fellow political scientists alike. He will be deeply missed by all who knew him, especially his colleagues in political science, all of whom he helped bring to Lehigh.”

Colon was a published author in the areas of public administration, urban, state and local government. He earned his B.A. from Geneva College and his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Pittsburgh.

“I have known Frank Colon since 1974, my entire professional life at Lehigh,” says Laura Olson, professor of political science. “Frank was deeply involved in community politics and, as such, was able to offer students unique insights into the workings of state and local government.”

“I will miss seeing him with his coffee mug walking down the hall to get coffee, hearing him singing to himself on the way to class, and his always having the time to say hello and ask how I was doing,” Matthews says.

A Mass will be held for Colon at 10:30 a.m. March 29 at Notre Dame Church, 1861 Catasauqua Road in Bethlehem. Donations in his memory can be sent to The Lehigh University Fund in memory of Professor Frank Colon, or Saint Vincent’s DePaul Society in care of Notre Dame Church, 1861 Catasauqua Road, Bethlehem, PA 18018.

--Tricia Long

Posted on Monday, March 17, 2008

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