Beloved co-founding dean passes away in Atlanta
By Aïda Rogers, AIDAR@mailbox.sc.edu
Like the Honors students he taught and mentored in the college he co-founded, Peter Sederberg was multi-faceted and exceptionally talented. Champion for peace, organizer of protests, excellent cook, and star pitcher for his department’s softball team, Peter Carl Sederberg also was a relentlessly curious scholar, professor, traveler, reader, and writer. He died July 31 in Atlanta of complications from Alzheimer’s disease.
“Many people over the years have made major contributions to our Honors College, but no one has done more to create and shape our Honors College than Peter, who along with Bill Mould, served as one of our founding deans,” said Steven Lynn, dean of the South Carolina Honors College. “Peter was a passionate advocate for students. He believed Honors students could accomplish great things, and he challenged and inspired them to do that. Peter also had a profound national influence, publishing a seminal essay on what an honors college should be.”
A native of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Sederberg graduated from the University of Minnesota. Those who knew him and his humor won’t be surprised he called his undergraduate alma mater the “state center for atheism and communism.” But there he earned a degree in economics and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa his senior year. Then, he journeyed to Johns Hopkins University for his Ph.D. in political science.
Sederberg came to the University of South Carolina in 1971, where he taught in the Government and International Studies department. He remained at Carolina for 36 years, spending almost 30 of them creating and building the SCHC. For 11 years, he was dean. His widow, Jan Love, said his work with the SCHC was the “centerpiece” of his career. When he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2013, she created a scholarship fund in his name. “He found extraordinary joy and energy in engaging the wonderfully creative faculty and students in the college,” she said when announcing the scholarship fund.
That joy was irrepressible. It was evident in his description of himself as an “intellectual fox” – digging into many different fields of study – and his willingness to discuss William Sherman’s genius as a military general at dinner parties in Columbia and Atlanta. He read good books and bad, watched all kinds of movies – categorizing them as films, flicks, and movies as he thought appropriate. He had dance parties for his students.
Besides Dr. Love, dean of Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, Sederberg leaves their daughter, Rachel Love, his son Per, daughter-in-law Laurel Megan Feigley, and grandchildren Isla Magnolia Sederberg and Leif August Sederberg. There is no way to count the number of students and colleagues who also will feel his loss.
Because of the pandemic, there will be a private burial. When a tribute can be scheduled, it will be announced. Donations in his name may be made to The Peter C. Sederberg Endowed Scholarship Fund through the South Carolina Honors College here.