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J. Roland Pennock Papers

Identifier: SFHL-RG6-L8-011

Scope and Contents

This collection contains memorial letters which were received by the college following his death in 1995; writings, including journal articles, speeches, contributions to reference publications, and reviews of his books; and his papers concerning College committees on which he served, including Educational Policy, Divestment, Honors and the College and the War (1940-1942).


  • Creation: 1930-1995


Limitations on Accessing the Collection

Collection is open for research.

Copyright and Rights Information

Copyright has not been assigned to Friends Historical Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Director. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Friends Historical Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

Biographical / Historical

J. Roland Pennock was born on February 4, 1906. After a year of study at the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1925-26, Pennock returned to Swarthmore and graduated with highest honors in 1927 as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. In 1928, he received a Master of Arts degree in Government from Harvard University. On January 24, 1931, Pennock married Helen Sharpless. A year later, Pennock earned his second graduate degree from Harvard, a PhD in Government.

In 1932, J. Roland Pennock became an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Swarthmore after spending three years as an instructor in the field. The following year, Pennock and his wife celebrated the birth of their first daughter, Joan, on April 7, 1933. A second daughter, Judith, was born on January 3, 1935.

In 1941, Pennock was named an Associate Professor and became Chairman of the Political Science Department, a position he would hold for 29 years. Also in 1941, he published his first book, Administration and the Rule of Law. Over the course of the next 28 years, three more books would follow: Liberal Democracy: Its Merits and Prospects in 1950, Political Science: An Introduction (with David Smith) in 1964, and Democratic Political Theory in 1979. Each of these works was instrumental in cementing Pennock’s status as an internationally acclaimed political theorist. However, they constituted only a portion of his contributions to the literature of Political Science. All told, 29 articles credited to Pennock appeared in various political journals between 1935 and 1990, in addition to articles written for assorted political dictionaries and encyclopedias.

When he wasn't teaching or writing, Roland Pennock devoted a great deal of time to a number of political organizations outside the college. He served as Vice President of the American Political Science Association in 1963. In 1965, he assumed to position of Editor of Nomos, the yearbook of the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy. From 1968 through 1970, he served as the President of the ASPLP. Pennock also was active on the Social Science Research Council, the Friends Peace Committee, the Board of Editors of the American Political Science Review, and in the US State Department's Office of Foreign Relief.

At Swarthmore, Roland Pennock was active on a number of committees, including the Committee on Educational Policy, Curriculum Committee, and the Committee on the College and the War. Pennock was rarely hesitant to voice his opinions on all manner of college policy, especially the Honors program. To honor Pennock for his tireless work in all facets of college business, Swarthmore named him the first Richter Professor of Political Science in 1962.

Roland Pennock retired from his teaching position at Swarthmore in 1976. His teaching career did not end, however, as he accepted posts as a visiting professor at the University of California, San Diego in 1978 and at the University of Minnesota in 1979. For the duration of his retirement, Pennock maintained close ties with Swarthmore College, donating money and corresponding with professors and administrators. As always, he occupied himself with his writing and published the last of his 29 journal articles, "Liberalism Under Attack," in The Political Science Teacher in 1990.

J. Roland Pennock died on February 19, 1995, in Haverford, Pennsylvania, at the age of 89. His passing spurred a public outpouring of grief at Swarthmore, but also gave members of the community pause to celebrate his life and commemorate his work. In the weeks following Pennock death, the college received hundreds of memorial letters from alumni expressing their own thoughts and feelings about him. At Swarthmore College today, the four scholarships, one research fellowship and one seminar endowed in his name are testaments to Roland Pennock's great contributions to the school and the field of Political Science.


1.25 Linear Feet (3 boxes)




Roland Pennock was a prominent professor of Political Science at Swarthmore College where he taught from 1932 to 1976. This collection contains memorial letters which were received by the college following his death in 1995; writings including journal articles, speeches, contributions to reference publications, and reviews of his books; and his papers concerning the College committees on which he served, including Educational Policy, Divestment, and Honors.


Organized in three series: 1. Memorial; 2. Writings; 3. College committees.

Physical Location

For current information on the location of materials, please consult the Library's online catalog

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donor: J. Roland Pennock, Helen Sharpless Pennock, Swarthmore College

Date: 1990, 1995

Accession numbers: SCA 90-001.03, 95-029 and 95-046

Processing Information

This collection was processed in 2001 (RLG), at which time materials were sorted, identified, placed into folders and inventoried. Miscellaneous committee minutes were removed and placed in the Swarthmore College Archives. The papers were transferred into acid-free folders and identified with acid-free labels.

J. Roland Pennock Papers, 1930-1995
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