Mathew McCubbins

Duke Law mourns death of Professor Mathew McCubbins

Mathew D. McCubbins, the Ruth F. De Varney Professor of Political Science and Professor of Law, died on July 1 in Menlo Park, Calif. He was 64. 

“Mat was a towering figure in his field, a renowned teacher and mentor, and an esteemed member of our faculty for the last eight years,” said Kerry Abrams, the James B. Duke and Benjamin N. Duke Dean of the School of Law. “He will be dearly missed.”

An interdisciplinary scholar whose work explored the intersections of law, business, and political economy, McCubbins joined the Duke Law faculty in 2013. He held a joint appointment in Duke University’s Department of Political Science. 

At the Law School, McCubbins had recently taught a seminar with Professor Jack Knight, Democracy and the Rule of Law, and a Statutory Interpretation Colloquium. He also spearheaded several scholarly conferences at Duke, including the 11th annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies, the Northwestern-Duke Causal Inference Workshops, and the Duke-Oxford Conference on Cognitive Approaches to Law, Economics, Politics and Policy.

“Mat was an extraordinarily creative thinker,” said Knight, the Frederic Cleaveland Professor of Law and Political Science. “His insights into the relationships between the courts and the other branches of government set the agenda for a generation of legal and political scholars. Just as important was the generosity that he demonstrated towards both his students and his colleagues.”

Added Kristen Renberg JD/PhD ’22: “Mat McCubbins was my advisor, friend, visionary researcher, and an incredible teacher. He changed my life for the better and that of so many others.” 

Before coming to Duke, McCubbins had been the Provost Professor of Business, Law and Political Economy at the University of Southern California and director of the USC-Cal Tech Center for the Study of Law and Politics at the Gould School of Law at USC. He spent 2013-2014 as the W. Glenn Campbell and Rita Ricardo-Campbell National Fellow and the Robert Eckles Swain National Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

An elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as well as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, McCubbins also taught at the University of Texas, Stanford University, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of San Diego Law School. He was a Distinguished Professor and the Chancellor’s Associates Chair in the Department of Political Science at the University of California San Diego from 1987 to 2011, where he received the 2008 Chancellor’s Associates Faculty Excellence Award for Graduate Teaching.

McCubbins was the co-author of six books: The Logic of Delegation (University of Chicago Press, 1991), winner of the APSA’s 1992 Gladys M. Kammerer Award; Legislative Leviathan (University of California Press, 1993), winner of the APSA’s Legislative Studies Section’s 1994 Richard F. Fenno Jr. Prize; The Democratic Dilemma: Can Citizens Learn What They Need to Know? (Cambridge University Press, 1998); Stealing the Initiative (Prentice-Hall, 2000); Setting the Agenda: Responsible Party Government in the US House of Representatives (Cambridge University Press, 2005), winner of the APSA’s Leon Epstein Award; and Legislative Leviathan, Second Edition (Cambridge University Press, 2006). He edited or co-edited eight additional books, authored or co-authored more than 100 articles, book chapters, and encyclopedia entries in political science, economics, computer science, cognitive science, and biology, and authored more than three dozen articles in law reviews or law journals.

McCubbins’s survivors include his wife, Susan Shugets McCubbins; sons Kenny, Colin Hwa-En and Kenneth HwaLong; and three grandchildren.

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Magazine Cover, Fall 2021

Fall 2021
Volume 40 No. 2