Howard Scarrow, SBU Professor Emeritus and Setauket Resident, Dies at 92

Howard Scarrow, SBU Professor Emeritus and Setauket Resident, Dies at 92

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Howard Albert Scarrow died peacefully Dec. 3, surrounded by his loving family at his Setauket home.  He was 92.  Scarrow was a professor emeritus of Political Science at Stony Brook University. 

Howard Scarrow

Born and raised in Detroit, he was heavily influenced by his family’s membership in the city’s Central United Methodist Church. The church’s pastor, Henry Hitt Crane, was a seminal influence on young Scarrow.  Crane, a pacifist during World Wars I and II, instilled in Scarrow a lifelong respect for those with the courage of their principled convictions, even when those convictions did not align with his own.

Scarrow received his B.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Duke University.  He began his teaching career at Michigan State University, where he met Rowena Casad at a departmental softball game. They married six weeks later. 

Scarrow joined SBU in 1963 and was a central figure in the Political Science department from then until his retirement in 2004. His research began with a focus on politics in Canada and Australia, and broadened into inquiries on the methods of comparing political systems generally. Later he focused on American politics, particularly in New York State, about which he wrote his book “Parties, Elections and Representation in the State of New York.” In addition to his several books, he authored many scholarly articles. He was also a revered teacher of American and comparative politics at both introductory and advanced levels. As a mentor to generations of students, he combined warmth and generosity of spirit with insistence upon the highest academic standards.

Scarrow had significant involvement in many aspects of community life in the Three Villages.  He was an active member of the Setauket Presbyterian Church, where he anchored the choir’s bass section for more than 50 years.  He was a longtime member of the Three Village Tennis Club.  He ran community recycling drives in an era before bottle deposit laws and curbside recycling took hold.  He was active in the Three Village Civic Association, as well as myriad local political issues and campaigns. Perhaps his most consequential contribution to civic life was his role in the decades-long struggle to elect Brookhaven Town Board members via council districts, replacing the prior at-large system — a switch that led to the 2002 breakup of Brookhaven’s one-party rule, and a town government more representative of Brookhaven’s diversity. He also was one of the initial investors in The Village Times and contributed astute political columns to the newspaper.

Scarrow had a passionate interest in classical music, stemming from his lifelong participation in choral singing.  He was a frequent, enthusiastic audience member at the Staller Center at SBU, and at the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Tanglewood Festival, where he volunteered for more than 30 years while in residence at the family’s summer home in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Rowena; his son James and daughter-in-law Tracy, of Washington, D.C.; daughter Jean, of Newton, Massachusetts; his brother, David Scarrow and wife Janet of Kalamazoo, Michigan; his grandchildren, Christopher, Spencer, Emily and Jackson; and numerous nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be planned at a later date.  Contributions in his memory can be made to the Brennan Center for Justice, the Setauket Presbyterian Church music fund, the Staller Center for the Arts at Stony Brook University, or the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Tanglewood Festival.