Thomas Engeman, who taught political science at Loyola for almost 35 years, died March 11, leaving those close to him remembering a generous and curious man.
Engeman was influential in the university’s political science program, teaching undergraduate and graduate level courses and focusing on political theory. Having worked at Loyola from 1975 until 2009, he was esteemed and respected in his field and published works on American political thought and structure, according to a bereavement notice on Loyola Campus Ministry’s website.
As a professor, “no one could do what he did,” according to Engeman’s former student Scott Yenor, who also worked as his graduate assistant from 1994-97.
“Most of who he is, is the work that he did,” Yenor said.
Yenor said the two would schedule weekly meetings to discuss professional matters. But the meetings became much more — Yenor said Engeman often explained why he studied political science, fueling Yenor’s own passion for the subject.
“That in itself right there is a way you can get an education from someone, when you understand why they study what they study,” Yenor said.
William Voegeli, another former student and graduate assistant, said Engeman was a director for his dissertation. In the process of reviewing the dissertation, Voegeli said Engeman inspired and motivated him, calling Engeman his “champion” within the university bureaucracy.
Yenor said his relationship with Engeman lasted much longer than his time as a student, a sentiment echoed by Voegeli.
“If you stay in touch with any professors long enough … you go from being teacher and student to just being friend and friend,” Voegeli said.
Yenor and Voegeli remembered visiting Engeman’s family cottage on Lake George in upstate New York — where Engeman was “totally comfortable.”
“In some ways he might have been more at home there than he was any place else on the planet,” Voegeli said.
Yenor remembered a time at Lake George when Engeman taught him and his wife how to water ski — despite his wife being six months pregnant at the time. Yenor said Engeman was so eager to water ski he forgot to take his glasses off before diving in.
While Yenor and Voegeli remembered the lighthearted times with Engeman, Voegeli said he cared strongly for those he loved, specifically after the Sept. 11 attacks. Voegeli said he was living in New York City at the time, and he was reassured by Engeman’s compassion, even when phone lines were down following the attacks.
“It was Tom Engeman who was checking to see how I was,” Voegeli said. “That meant a great deal to me.”
During his time at Loyola, Engeman was active in the political science graduate program and led the annual Frank M. Covey, Jr. Endowed Lecture Series in Political Analysis, according to Campus Ministry’s notice.
Claudio Katz, a professor in Loyola’s political science department who also focuses on political theory, said he and Engeman disagreed often, but he made conversation interesting.
“Tom and I disagreed on virtually everything,” Katz said. “We just did not see eye-to-eye on politics, on the interpretation of texts, the nature of the academy; we just had different outlooks. But he was a terrific conversationalist … He understood the art of conversations, he understood the art of disagreeing with someone.”
Engeman suffered from Alzheimer’s disease late in his life. He left behind his wife, Susan, and his son, Morgan. The family couldn’t be reached for an interview.