Randall W. Strahan (1954-2014)



  • Ph.D., University of Virginia, 1986
  • M.A., University of Houston, 1979
  • B.S., University of Houston, 1976


We mourn the loss and celebrate the contributions of our friend and colleague, Dr. Randall Strahan, an exemplary scholar and teacher, who died on January 16, 2014. Randy received an MA from University of Houston, where he developed a close relationship with his thesis advisor Ross Lence, and a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia, where he developed his interest in American political institutions under the guidance especially of Martha Derthick, James Ceaser, and his dissertation advisor, Charles Jones. Randy was appointed Assistant Professor at Emory University in 1985 where he stayed his entire career, rising to the rank of Professor in 2008.

Randy’s scholarly record included numerous articles and contributions to edited volumes, and two major books: New Ways and Means, a study of the changing politics of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Leading Representatives, an examination of the role played by transformative House Speakers from Henry Clay to Newt Gingrich. In his scholarship and in his own life, Randy demonstrated that leadership matters.

Rigorous qualitative methods, including a combination of archival research and elite interviews, together with a deep knowledge of American history and lucid writing, were the hallmarks of Randy Strahan’s scholarship. He had a rare ability to discover the essence of politics in the fine details of individual case studies of public policy and political leaders. The breadth of Randy’s interests was evident in his recent research on American political development and the political thought of Alexis de Tocqueville. Anyone who shared a seat on a conference panel with Randy will attest to his insightfulness, curiosity, and collegiality. He regularly took time to talk with and review the work of junior colleagues who sought his advice.

Emory students benefitted from Professor Strahan’s carefully crafted lectures, his ability to lead discussions, and his attention to the interests of individual students. Over his career, he served on numerous Ph.D. committees and as dissertation advisor for eight students, all of whom went on to successful careers in academia. He was honored with both of Emory University’s highest awards for teaching ― the Crystal Apple for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and the Emory Williams Distinguished Teaching Award.