Tonsor, R.I.P.

by John J. Miller on January 30, 2014 · 1 comment

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University of Michigan professor Stephen Tonsor has died. From the new issue of National Review:

Jeffrey Hart once likened the conservative historian Stephen Tonsor to a pit bull, in tribute to his toughness as a thinker. Gregory Schneider, in an address honoring Tonsor at the Philadelphia Society several years ago, refined the metaphor: Tonsor, who enjoyed attending a German-language Mass in Detroit, was more of a Rottweiler. A native of Illinois, he was best known as a longtime professor at the University of Michigan, where he stood out as a traditionalist among the faculty’s left-wing lapdogs. He challenged conventional wisdom wherever he saw it, even among his fellow conservatives. He worried, for instance, that as the conservative movement became devoted to federal policymaking in Washington, it was drifting away from its animating, humanistic principles. Ever the teacher, he preferred the classroom to the think tank. Behind the occasionally irascible exterior resided a warm and generous man who welcomed students and other visitors into his home for meals and conversation. Dead at 90. R.I.P.

My friend and occasional co-author Mark Molesky was a student of Tonsor, and wrote on his legacy here.

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  • Glenn Kotcher

    I sat under this great man and took the time to introduce myself to him one day after class. I mentioned to him some of the things I was involved with on campus and told him how refreshing it was to have a conservative professor at Michigan. I also remember Mark Molesky being in that class with me. I will always remember Stephen Tonsor by this quote: “There are no atavistic utopias.” For that matter, there are no utopias, futuristic or atavistic. That is the heart of conservative thought.
    Glenn Kotcher LSA ’90

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