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Retirement celebration honors Joe Pika's teaching, scholarship, public service

Joe Pika, right, is thanked for his public service and congratulated on his retirement by U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, who as governor in 1994 appointed him to the state Board of Education.

Joseph A. Pika told the large gathering of colleagues, former students, public officials, friends and family, who turned out on April 24 to celebrate his retirement from UD, that his continuing love throughout his career has been education.

“I discovered in 1970 that I really enjoyed teaching, and I’ve been teaching ever since,” said Pika, the James R. Soles Professor of Political Science and International Relations and former associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. 

The tributes that were offered at the celebration—in person and in writing—also applauded Pika’s lifetime of contributions to education at UD and throughout the state of Delaware. But he was recognized as well for his achievements as a scholar, his work in public service to the state, and his devotion to his family.

Among those at the event were all three members of Delaware's congressional delegation, U.S. Sens. Tom Carper '75M and Chris Coons and U.S. Rep. John Carney '84M. Also attending were the state's chief justice, Leo Strine '85, and the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for Delaware, Leonard Stark '91, both former students of Pika’s.

In his remarks, Coons cited Pika’s influence on the lives of students and communities, saying past, present and future students will benefit from his “character, intellect and grace.”  Carper, who as Delaware’s governor in 1994 first appointed Pika to the state Board of Education, thanked him for his dedication to public education.

CAS Dean George Watson read several letters of thanks and congratulations, including one from Vice President Joseph Biden, a UD alumnus, who urged Pika to remain engaged in public service. Watson also presented the college’s 2015 Lifetime Service Award to Pika, who spent 34 years as a faculty member.

Pika joined the University faculty in 1981 and was named the first James R. Soles Professor in 2008. The endowed position was created, through donations from alumni and friends, to recognize a faculty member for a record of career commitments to teaching, students and active citizenship and civic involvement, as exemplified in Professor Soles’ own career. Professor Soles, who was Alumni Distinguished Professor Emeritus, retired in 2002 and died in 2010.

At UD, Pika chaired the Department of Political Science and International Relations from 1994-99 and from 2000-2002, received UD's Excellence in Teaching and Excellence in Advising awards and the College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Service Award. He served as faculty director of the Delaware Social Studies Education Project from 1999-2001 and later as director of Secondary Education Programs in CAS, director of the Center for Secondary Teacher Education and director of Southern Delaware Professional Development.

On the state level, while on partial leave, Pika served as executive director of the Governor's Commission on Government Reorganization Effectiveness in 1993, as Carper began his first term as governor. After his 1994 appointment to the state Board of Education, he served as its president from 2001-05. In that position, he also was an ex officio member of the UD Board of Trustees.

Pika's research focuses on American government, with an emphasis on the presidency, political leadership, education policy and Delaware politics. He is the co-author of Government Matters: American Democracy in Context and the widely used and acclaimed textbook, now in its eighth edition, The Politics of the Presidency.

Pika received his bachelor's and master's degrees from Johns Hopkins University and his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

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Colleagues, former students, friends, family and a host of public officials attended the recent retirement celebration for Joseph A. Pika, a faculty member for 34 years.

Colleagues, former students and public officials--including Delaware's congressional delegation--attended the recent retirement celebration for Joseph A. Pika, the James R. Soles Professor of Poltical Science.

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