UC Irvine Chancellor Emeritus Jack Peltason and his wife, Suzanne, have been named recipients of the School of Social Sciences' first "Distinguished Benefactor Award" for their history of support for the school and its students, including a recent gift that will create a new Peltason Fellowship in the school's Center for the Study of Democracy.

Two events are planned to honor the Peltasons: a dinner on Wednesday, Oct. 27, and a daylong conference at UCI on Thursday, Oct. 28, that will explore the future of American democracy with lectures and panel discussions featuring some of the nation's most prominent political experts.

Former U.S. Senator Paul Simon (D.-Ill.), a longtime friend of the Peltasons, will deliver the Peltason Lecture on Democracy as the conference's keynote address at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 28, in the UCI Student Center. In addition, James MacGregor Burns, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, will speak on the American presidency earlier in the day at 12:15 p.m. in the Student Center. Burns is one of the original co-authors, with Peltason, of "Government by The People," a best-selling political science textbook now in its 18th edition. The conference, titled "The Future of American Democracy," is free and open to the public.

"I can't think of two people more deserving of this honor than Jack and Suzie Peltason," UCI Chancellor Ralph J. Cicerone said. "Their legacy of service to UCI and its students, and of leadership to the University of California as a whole, is remarkable."

In addition to serving as the university's second chancellor from 1984 to 1992, Jack Peltason was president of the University of California from 1992 to 1995 and chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 1967 to 1977. He is a highly regarded political scientist and author and one of the founding faculty of UCI's Center for the Study of Democracy, which is coordinating the events.

The Peltasons recently made a gift to the Center for the Study of Democracy that has endowed the Peltason Fellowship, which will enable the center to recruit some of America's brightest students to its graduate training program on democracy. Russell Dalton, center director and professor of political science, said the Peltasons' gift will help the center expand its graduate program on democracy, which was created in 1995 with a $562,500 grant from the National Science Foundation.

In addition, the Hewlett Foundation has awarded the center a $75,000 challenge grant to establish the Peltason Lecture on Democracy, a program that will bring distinguished political figures to campus each year for classes and lectures. Simon is the first political figure to visit the campus as a Peltason lecturer. He'll discuss his views on America's political future.

"Through their generous gifts of both time and financial resources, the Peltasons have played key roles in the creation and success of the Center for the Study of Democracy," Dalton said. "Their continuing commitment to the center—and to the entire School of Social Sciences—is enabling us to expose our students to the insight and experiences of some of the most important political figures in America."

Indeed, "The Future of American Democracy" conference will bring together the most prestigious group of political scientists and former politicians ever assembled at UCI, Dalton said. Most of them, he noted, are friends of Jack Peltason, who is considered one of the nation's foremost authorities on American politics and the Constitution.

Explaining the reason for his gift to the Center for the Study of Democracy, Peltason said, "The center brings together scholars from many disciplines to study one of the most important subjects I can think of—the process of self-government and how to preserve and enhance democracy, a subject I've devoted my life to." NOTE: Details on the Oct. 28 conference are available by calling (949) 824-5361 or visiting www.democ.uci.edu/democ/confer/usaconf.htm.

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