In memory of George Breckenridge

Political Science professor George Breckenridge started teaching at McMaster in 1967, and taught right up to his death in 2018.

In more than 50 years at Mac, political science professor George Breckenridge inspired several generations of students to become involved in public service and politics. Faculty of Social Sciences photo.

It is with sadness that the Department of Political Science shares the news of Dr. George Breckenridge’s passing. A memorial fund in his honour has been established to help support students studying Political Science at McMaster.

Breckenridge joined the department in 1967, and taught there until a few months ago. In more than 50 years, he taught tens of thousands of students, many of whom entered politics or public service because of his passion for the subject.

“There is nobody who has had a greater impact on how I teach my U.S. Government course at Wilfrid Laurier, or who I have contacted more regularly on academic matters,” says Barry Kay, an associate professor of political science and a former student who recalled Breckenridge’s generosity as a role model, mentor and friend: “Without George’s influence, I might not have followed the career path I was fortunate to choose.”

Breckenridge inspired generations of students, says Michael Atkinson, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan’s Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy.

“George steadied us through turbulent times and encouraged us when we needed it most. He was a long-standing member of the McMaster Political Science family and he will be remembered fondly by each and every one of us.”

Breckenridge specialized in comparative politics and political economy, and his expertise in U.S. and U.K. politics has been widely acknowledged. National and local media often called on him to discuss domestic and international political issues.

Most recently, he played a pivotal role in leading the Trump Talks series of seminars, which was open to — and enthusiastically received by — the public.

Listen to: The Scott Thompson Show on George Breckenridge’s inspiring legacy

Breckenridge was raised in Dumbarton, Scotland, and went to the University of Glasgow, graduating with an MA in economics and political science. A few years later, he moved to Canada to study at the University of Saskatchewan. From there, he proceeded to Duke University in North Carolina, earning his PhD in political science and economic history.

His time at Duke, at the height of the Civil Rights movement, shaped his understanding of U.S. politics and strengthened his compassion for those who suffer.

“George made an enormous contribution, over more than 50 years, to the education of our students,” says Professor Karen Bird, Chair of political science at McMaster. “He was an inspiring teacher, a terrific speaker, and a very warm and approachable person who really could draw almost anybody into a discussion.

“But certainly it was his perceptive analysis of U.S. politics that drew students to him year after year,” Bird says.

Breckenridge had developed quite a following through the Trump Talks series, and was very much looking forward to teaching Topics in U.S. Politics this winter, she says.

“He is sadly missed, but the George Breckenridge Memorial Fund is a most appropriate way to commemorate the life of someone who always took a very keen interest in helping students.”

Click here to donate to the George Breckenridge memorial fund.

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