Gilbert Cuthbertson, 1937-2019

Tributes paid to long-serving political science professor

August 8, 2019
Photo by Leslie Hoyt

An expert on Texan politics and political history, affectionately known as “Doc C”, has died.

Gilbert Cuthbertson was born in Missouri in 1937 and graduated from the University of Kansas with a bachelor’s degree in political science and then went on to gain a doctorate from Harvard University.

He began teaching at Rice University in 1963 and stayed there for more than 50 years, meaning that few names are more synonymous with the Houston-based institution.

A founding member of Rice’s department of political science, he taught political thought, constitutional law and Texas politics until the time of his death.

He also authored numerous articles and reviews, served in countless advisory roles and volunteered on several university committees.

Professor Cuthbertson was a resident associate at Will Rice College for 55 years.

An only child who never married, he became family to countless students and colleagues, acting not just as a teacher but a mentor, cheerleader, advocate, travelling companion and friend.

He dined every day at the same tables as students and played pool and cards with them. A talented bridge player, he taught hundreds of students how to play.

Passionate about teaching, he taught generations of Rice students and received several accolades, including the prestigious George R. Brown Certificate of Highest Merit in 1993.

He also received the Student Association Mentor Award in 1989, recognising his commitment to students, and Rice’s 2010 Meritorious Service Award in 2010, honouring his sustained contribution to the university.

Professor Cuthbertson was known for his sense of humour, his reluctance to embrace email and his stubborn commitment to his typewriter.

Amid the presidential election campaign and publicity about hacked emails in 2016, he called former student Patrick Quayle and said: “That’s exactly why I don’t use email.”

“Up until his final days, he ensured Rice remained in the hearts of those who have passed through the Sallyport, and that is his legacy that will live on,” added Mr Quayle.

“Generations of Rice students left his courses understanding the importance of myth, power and value for understanding politics,” said Ashley Leeds, chair of the department of political science.

“Students regularly referred to him as a ‘genius’ and a ‘legend’ in their evaluations of his teaching.

“Part of what they could see in him was how much he loved teaching at Rice, his relationships with Rice students and how his teaching brought great joy to his life.”

Professor Cuthbertson died on 21 July in Tulsa, Oklahoma, after a short illness.

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