was probably inevitable for Marian Palley to become a professor. Both
her parents were high school social studies teachers and they expected
she would do something similar. She first went to college to study
economics, but fell in love with political science and the rest is
After earning both her master’s and doctorate degrees in political
science and a few brief high school teaching opportunities, Palley began
teaching at the University of Delaware in 1970. Almost half a century
later, she is a professor emerita in UD’s Department of Political
Science and International Relations. She shared her story with members
of UD’s Association of Retired Faculty (UDARF) during the spring
semester’s “My Intellectual Journey” presentation at the Courtyard
Marriott in Newark.
Palley said her interest in political science definitely stems from her upbringing.
“I was a news junkie,” Palley said. “I grew up in a household where
we got three newspapers a day, probably got four or five political
journals in the house. You have to understand my mother and my father
were both social studies teachers. They were both ABD (all but
dissertation). My father was also trained as a lawyer.”
Throughout her career, Palley was a trailblazer in many ways. She was
the first woman to join the Department of Political Science and
International Relations. She interviewed for the job while she was four
months pregnant, and said she was thankful for how supportive her
colleagues were from the beginning.
“I never really experienced any gender discrimination in my career,
which is very unusual, I know,” Palley said. “The people who helped me
the most were men.”
She specifically thanked William Boyer who led the department at the time and was present at the event.
“Bill was very supportive,” she said. “He never had a meeting before
nine or after three, because I had [childcare responsibilities].”
Additionally, Palley taught all over the world, holding appointments
at the University of Otago in New Zealand, Ewha Womans University in
Korea and the University of Adelaide in Australia among others.
As a political scientist, Palley’s research generally focused on
gender, politics and health. Palley said her research tended to reflect
where she was in her personal life. She published more than 10 books
which addressed a variety of bigger issues including urban America and
social change for women both in America and abroad.
She has a laundry list
of published work, awards, and involvement on various boards and
associations. While she accomplished a lot, Palley highlighted her
involvement in helping to establish a Winter Session trip to Israel.
Between 1978 and 1999, she traveled with groups of students every other
year. Palley estimated she traveled with hundreds of students during the
Palley said she remains active in retirement.
“I didn’t retire, I just work for no pay,” she said.
She serves as chair of the Delaware Women’s Commission, vice chair of
Planned Parenthood of Delaware and a committee member at Christiana Care,
works with the Friends of Newark Symphony and is a former UDARF president.
In addition to her lifelong career as an educator and researcher,
Palley is married to Howard Palley, professor and distinguished fellow
at the Institute for Human Services Policy at the University of
Maryland. Between all her commitments, Palley joked that her daughter
has to remind her that being a grandmother is her primary
responsibility. She has five grandchildren.
Article by Carlett Spike; photo by Kathy F. Atkinson