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In Celebration of Professor of Political Science Robert L. Cord: Remembering his Impact and Legacy at Northeastern


A celebration of Professor Cord’s life on will be announced for 2023 and will be held on Northeastern University’s Boston campus. Former students, colleagues, and friends will be invited to attend and encouraged to share their stories of Professor Cord on a forthcoming online digital memorial archive. For more information, please email s.heartz@northeastern.edu. To learn more about Cord’s life, please click here for his obituary. Please also consider donating to the Robert L. Cord Endowed Book Fund at Northeastern University to help continue his legacy.

Robert L. Cord passed away on August 30, 2022. As the Matthews Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Northeastern University for over 30 years, Cord was a pioneering scholar in Constitutional Law who had a transformative impact on the lives and the careers of many of his students.

A  leading national authority on the Establishment Clause, Cord’s research and writing elevated and enriched the learning experiences of his students. While we are planning to celebrate his legacy at a future date, we encourage his supporters to donate to the Robert L. Cord Endowed Book Fund at Northeastern University in his honor to help continue his legacy.

Friends, colleagues, and students had many insights into Cord’s scholarship, leadership, and mentorship. “It occurs to me how fortunate I was to have Professor Cord as a teacher. His original research on the separation of church and state made its way into his lecture notes as well as a frontpage article he authored in The National Review,” remembers Phil Cunningham, ‘72.

Cord’s scholarship also shaped his students’ professional and personal development by giving them opportunities to work alongside him. Raymond B. Ludwiszewski, ’81, assisted in the research and writing of Cord’s seminal book, Separation of Church and State (1982). According to Ludwiszewski, “That book—bolstered by Cord’s mentorship and reinforced by a letter of recommendation from him that only my mother could have believed—was a path to the Harvard Law School, an editor position on the Law Review, a clerkship with one of the greatest federal judges in American history, senior service in the U.S. Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency, and a wonderful legal career. All of those positions trace their roots firmly back to Cord’s endless commitment of his personal time and energy in advancing the education of his students.”

Stefan Nathanson, ’88, worked for Cord to write law review articles, spending “hours upon hours in the archives of the Boston Public Library and Harvard University researching journals and letters written by Thomas Jefferson and John Adams and their views of church-state separation, and lengthy conversations about those same writings. But that role and his friendship also exposed me to the tenets that were important to Bob: being ethical, finding ways to give back to your community, keeping your word, working hard. My years of charity work and serving on the Board of the Ethics Committee for the Massachusetts Real Estate Bar Association are directly attributable to Bob’s influence.”

Cord’s compassion and impact went beyond the classroom. Michael McQuade, ‘80, recounts how Cord intervened on his behalf to ensure he received timely treatment at the university infirmary for a major knee injury. Michael notes “that simple voluntary generous act kicked off a lifelong friendship with Bob, that continued until his recent death.” Bill Grossi, ’09, ‘13, met Cord nine years after he retired, when he “was a sophomore at Northeastern studying Criminal Justice, earning mediocre grades at best. Bob immediately took a keen interest in my academics, becoming the mentor that I didn’t fully realize I needed. I started relying on Bob more and more for academic and career guidance.”

In recognition of Cord’s lifelong commitment in service to others, several former students established the Robert L. Cord Endowed Book Fund. The fund provides financial assistance to qualified students to help pay for textbooks and supplies, and to continue the impact Professor Cord has made in his lifetime. Brent J. Bass, ’92, notes, “I was one such beneficiary. When speaking of smaller events that leave lasting impressions, receiving such aid would be one of the lasting memories of my time at Northeastern University. In fact, I once had the opportunity to offer an undergraduate student a similar benefit and can only hope it offered the same relief and support to that student”.

In recognition of Cord’s lifelong commitment in service to others, several former students established the Robert L. Cord Endowed Book Fund. The fund provides financial assistance to qualified students to help pay for textbooks and supplies, and to continue the impact Professor Cord has made in his lifetime. Brent J. Bass, ’92, notes, “I was one such beneficiary. When speaking of smaller events that leave lasting impressions, receiving such aid would be one of the lasting memories of my time at Northeastern University. In fact, I once had the opportunity to offer an undergraduate student a similar benefit and can only hope it offered the same relief and support to that student”.

Cord’s legacy continues in the impact his former students are making today as industry and community leaders. Ludwiszewski reflects the sorrow and gratitude of the Northeastern community in sharing that “we are all a little diminished by this loss. But, his achievements—often recorded in the successful careers of his students—will live on for decades to come. I believe he would be very pleased by that.”

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