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Professor dies at 75 of cancer

Observer Staff Report | Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Guillermo O’Donnell, professor emeritus of political science and senior fellow of Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies, died Tuesday in Buenos Aires after a long battle with cancer. He was 75.

O’Donnell joined Notre Dame’s faculty in 1982, according to a University press release. He was the first academic director of the Kellogg Institute from 1982 until 1997, playing a crucial role in the Institute’s development.

An internationally renowned scholar, O’Donnell focused his studies on Latin American authoritarian regimes, the democratic transitions many of them undergo and the relationship between modernization and democracy.

Scott Mainwaring, professor of political science and O’Donnell’s successor as director of the Kellogg Institute, said in a written tribute that his colleague is known around the world for his “intellectual creativity” and “path-breaking originality.”

“Throughout his career O’Donnell posed great new theoretical questions about tremendously important developments in the contemporary world,” Mainwaring said. “He was a deeply learned person who always drew upon the antecedent scholarship, yet one of his extraordinary gifts was recognizing new questions and new problems that had not hitherto been addressed.”

Mainwaring said O’Donnell was passionate about learning how democracies could best function in the modern world.

“He stands as one of the most important thinkers about democracy and dictatorships in the history of political science,” Mainwaring said.