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Professor Emerita Marian Palley shares story of her work in political science

​Marian Palley, professor emerita of political science and international relations, shares the story of her career with other retired faculty.

It 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 history.

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 time span.

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

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Marian Palley, the first woman faculty member in the Department of Political Science and International Relations, has had a successful and prolific scholarly career.

​Marian Palley, the first woman faculty member in the Department of Political Science and International Relations, has had a successful and prolific career as a scholar and teacher.

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A trailblazing career