Joseph D. Duffey, 88, Dies; Apostle of Liberalism and Humanities


In 1952, Dr. Duffey married Patricia Fortney, whom he had met at a Baptist youth convention; they divorced in 1973. A year later, he married Anne Wexler, who ran his 1970 campaign, became an aide to President Carter and then a prominent Washington political operative and lobbyist; she died in 2009.

In addition to his son Michael, from his first marriage, he is survived by his partner, Marian Burros, a former food writer for The New York Times; two stepsons, Daniel and David Wexler; two sisters, Ida Ruth Plymale and Patrica Duffey Keesee; and four grandchildren.

Dr. Duffey brought his progressive sensibilities to his job as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities under Mr. Carter. He defined the job to The Times in 1977 as awarding federal grants to support “disciplines whose function and purpose are self‐discovery and the exploration of the human experience.” And he acknowledged that he had encountered flak for focusing on what he called “neglected areas of research,” like the study of women and minority groups in America and the history of the Middle East.

His background as chief administrative officer for the American Association of University Professors from 1974 to 1976 helped pave the way for his appointments to the chancellorships of the University of Massachusetts and American University.

As a product of the antiwar movement, Dr. Duffey cautioned against romanticizing the era, recalling it as a time of deep national division.

But at a reunion of some of his 1970 campaign volunteers in 1993, after Mr. Clinton had risen to the White House, he reminded them that while it had taken Mr. Clinton’s election to reunite them, they should hold fast to their liberal principles and continue to work for what could bring them together again.

“Looking at you, I’m sure there’s another president here,” Dr. Duffey said. “And I’m sure we’ll all be together again when she is inaugurated.”

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