Ira Polley (1917-2005)

Ira Polley, educator, friend, husband, father, and grandfather passed away in East Lansing, Michigan on December 23, 2005, at the age of 88.

He was born in Haines, Alaska in 1917 to Catherine Polley (nee Lombard) and William Polley. After his father died in 1923, the family moved to a small farm outside Royal Center, Indiana. He graduated from Indiana University in 1938 (Phi Beta Kappa; Pi Sigma Alpha), and served during World War II as an Ensign in the United States Navy with postings at the Office of Civilian Defense and the War Production Board. After the war, he was a field examiner for the NLRB, and earned his Ph.D. (1954) at the University of Minnesota where he met and married his wife of 50 years, Margaret (“Peg”).

It was at Minnesota that he and Peg formed key friendships with Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Ambassador Max Kampelman, and Ira began a 50-year career dedicated to education and public service, serving under four Michigan Governors: Williams, Swainson, Romney, and Millikin, each of whom appreciated the high degree of professionalism he brought to public service. For the State of Michigan he was State Controller, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Executive Director of the Council of State College Presidents, and Executive Secretary to the Constitutional Convention Planning Commission. For Michigan State University he was an assistant professor, then Assistant Provost, and then a full professor of political science.

He cared deeply for his friends and community, and devoted much of his energy to political and educational causes, always urging others to do the same. Ira wrote: “I believe more and more Americans should see to it that the poor and powerless among us must have better opportunities to live a good life. We should insist that our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms be accorded to everyone – the rich, the poor, the powerful, the powerless. I hope also that all of us would join in efforts to protect our endangered environment and promote peace and goodwill abroad and at home.”

Ira was a warm man who made friends easily, and kept them close. He was dependable, and brimming with integrity and energy (continuing until 2004 a daily swimming regimen with MSU long-timers Milt Muelder, Raleigh Barlowe, and Tony Koo).