Jameson Doig GS ’58, ’61, a professor emeritus of political and public policy, died on Oct.19, 2019 at the age of 86.
Professor Doig, called “Jim” by his colleagues, joined the University faculty as an assistant professor of politics at the Woodrow Wilson School (WWS) in 1961, became a full professor in 1970, and taught in the WWS until he retired in 2004. In addition to teaching, he served as the chair of the Politics Department and twice as the director of the Woodrow Wilson Undergraduate Programs.
Born on June 12, 1933, in Oakland, Calif., Doig received his B.A. in philosophy from Dartmouth College before serving for three years as an officer in the U.S. Navy. He then continued his education at the University, where he completed an M.P.A in 1958 and a Ph.D. in Politics in 1961.
Stanley Katz, President Emeritus of the American Council of Learned Societies, is one of the only remaining WWS professors who worked with and knew Professor Doig well. He met him when he first began teaching at the WWS in 1981 and considered Doig a close friend.
“Technically, his field was American politics,” Katz said. “Realistically, he was interested in what I would call ‘the administrative state,’ particularly its administration in urban regions. To that end, one of Doig’s most acclaimed works is his ‘Empire on the Hudson: Entrepreneurial Vision and Political Power at the Port of New York Authority,’ a comprehensive history of a central institution in New York’s transportation infrastructure.”
Doig’s scholarship was distinctive because he took the time to get to know the people on the ground.
“He was widely respected as a scholar with his feet on the ground, he actually knew what was happening, and he got to know a lot of the people who were responsible for administration,” Katz said.
Katz also got to see a more personal side of Doig. The two of them would bring their children to the same public swimming pool, and while their kids were splashing around in the water, they would enjoy the opportunity to speak.
“Jim was very much the father who took the kids to the pool. He was a terrific father, deeply devoted to the children,” said Katz. Doig’s wife Joan worked in the Human Resources office at the University, and the couple lived in Princeton with their daughter, Rachel, and sons Stephen and Sean.
“Jim knew exactly who he was, and that turns out to be unusual — not that many people do,” said Katz.
Doig passed on his unique approach to his students as well.
David Gould ’68, the former chairman of the New York State Ethics Commission, explained that he ended up in Professor Doig’s first WWS seminar by mistake.
Like many of his fellow students, Gould had signed up for a seminar on the Populist Era, a “trendy left-wing subject taught by a well known and greatly admired professor.” Due to overflow in that seminar, however, he was assigned instead to Doig’s seminar on police departments — an unknown professor and a significantly less fashionable topic.
“The Police Seminar turned out to be the most electrifying, edifying, and important educational experience I ever had, a view shared by every one of my co-conferees. Another shared view was that, no thanks to us, we had landed in the lap of the best professor any of us had ever experienced,” Gould said in a speech delivered after Doig’s retirement in 2004, the text of which Gould forwarded to The Daily Princetonian.
“By the middle of the first seminar it was clear to us all that Professor Doig was brilliant, very hardworking, and certain that our seminar would involve not only education but public service,” continued Gould. The students, like their professor, had the opportunity to get “their feet on the ground.”
“I remember thinking to myself that all those lottery winners [students who ended up in the Populist Era seminar] never got hit by a bag of flaming excrement as part of the experience of their seminar,” Gould noted.
Andrew D. Hurwitz ’68, once one of Gould’s classmates in the police seminar and now a United States Circuit judge on the court of appeals for the ninth circuit, was Doig’s professed favorite student, said Gould. In his senior year, Hurwitz helped Doig put together a proposal for a reformed police force for the mayor of New Jersey.
“The mayor was impressed and asked us to meet with the police chief who looked at our work and said: ‘this is all fine but also get me some more tanks and machine guns.’ On the way out Jim reminded me once again that public policy is not simply an academic matter,” Hurwitz wrote in an obituary forwarded to the ‘Prince.’ “I have carried that lesson with me ever since.”
Later in his career, Doig’s academic interests shifted, and he became more focused on Canadian constitutional law. This brought him into even closer contact with Katz, whose field is history of law.
“He used to send me everything he wrote about Canadian constitutional law, and we spent a lot of time talking about what was distinctive about [it],” said Katz. “He was probably the leading expert in the United States on Canadian constitutional law.”
This interest extended beyond academia. Doig was also very helpful to Canadian students and played a role in the Canadian studies program.
Not only was Doig influential as a professor, but he built relationships with his students that remained after they graduated, continuing to offer both educational and personal guidance.
“Jim Doig was far and away the best thing about my Princeton education and the same is true for many others,” Hurwitz wrote. “But Jim’s mentorship did not end when you graduated … he was always available to comment on your work and regularly asked [you] to comment on his.”
“He was virtually a daily presence in our [students of his first seminar] lives from 1967 until he died. We shared our conflicting views on current events and even on family matters. Every time I was on the phone with, Jim my older autistic son would plead ‘Can I talk to Professor Doing [sic],’ and he always did,” Gould added.
Gould and his wife have been very involved in issues relating to the autism of their two sons, and Gould described that “When I felt desperation for the future of my children (i.e. almost every day), Jim was always there to help pull me off the ledge.”
Hurwitz wrote that he, Gould, and R. Stuart “Stu” Halstead ’68, three former students from Doig’s police seminar, emailed their former professor with their thoughts and prayers after he entered the hospital during his final illness.
“At the end of his characteristically gentle response, he noted: ‘I’m 86 and I’m tired,’” Hurwitz wrote. “And with good reason. Jim did the work of several lifetimes with my class alone. Princeton has had no better professor, and we will miss him.”