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Maurice “Gene” Chenoweth

The campus community mourns the passing of Maurice “Gene” Chenoweth, who died on Friday, March 15.  Gene retired in 1999 as Professor Emeritus of Political Science after 29 years of service to Bucknell.

Included below is the complete text of the recently released obituary, as provided by the family.

You are encouraged to visit our In Memoriam Site at and share personal notes of sympathy and remembrance with others.

On behalf of our entire University community, I extend our deepest sympathies to Gene’s family, as well as to all who knew him at Bucknell.

John C. Bravman


Gene Chenoweth, of Lewisburg, passed away peacefully in the company of family on his 87th birthday, March 15, 2019.

Maurice Gene Chenoweth, son of Marietta (Abner) Chenoweth and Clyde Chenoweth, was born at home on March 15, 1932, in rural Randolph County, Indiana. He came of age living on the farm, working alongside his parents and younger sister Phyllis (Grady), participating in 4-H and raising livestock for fair competitions. In 1950, Gene became the first in his family to attend college, majoring in history at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, where he became president of student government.

Gene married classmate Mary Frances James a few months after their graduation, and the young couple moved to Minneapolis where he pursued a PhD program in political science and served as a teaching assistant in American studies. By the time they arrived in Beloit, Wisconsin for his first teaching appointment, they had two sons in tow, Christopher Evan and Jonathan Neil. A year later Gene joined the faculty of Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio, and soon thereafter the family welcomed a daughter, Amy Elizabeth.

In the mid-60s, Gene completed and defended his dissertation (“The Politics of Four Types of Christian Chiliasts”), received the Sherwood Dodge Shankland Teaching Award, and was faculty advisor to the OWU Peace Committee. The family spent a year (’66-’67) in Ithaca, New York, while he pursued post-doctoral studies in Chinese at Cornell University. Concurrent with these academic pursuits Gene was a handyman and fearless home improver – both for his own family and for friends and colleagues – and explored an interest in photography and developing. He also enjoyed family camping and helped launch a Foreign Film Festival (fff) at the university.

Gene’s last professional move came in 1969, when he was hired to chair the department of Political Science at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa. He taught at BU until his retirement in 1997. His research and teaching interests included Southeast Asia, microeconomics, the Chinese Cultural Revolution, piracy, and hermeneutics. He helped establish summer study abroad in Eastern Europe, and built an international satellite TV resource unique to Bucknell. Gene’s was a prominent voice in anti-war activism, providing education and counseling, and contributing his leadership on campus during a difficult time. He testified in the 1972 trial of the “Harrisburg Seven,” a group that included Philip Berrigan and Elizabeth McAlister. At home he enjoyed the challenge of tending an organic garden plot in the meager soil along Hardscrabble Road. For many years he was the only driver in the family, and in that capacity he took his crew on ambitious roadtrips and innumerable music lessons.

In 1979, Gene and Mary divorced, and his partner for the next eleven years was LaVonne “Bonnie” Poteet. Together they brought forth Nathaniel Laurel Poteet, and collaborated in a variety of other initiatives in Latin America, including “Bucknell Brigade,” a relief effort in Nicaragua in the wake of hurricane Mitch. As he had done with each of his children, Gene supported Nathaniel’s development as a serious string player; he also encouraged, and at one point coached, Nathaniel in soccer. The two of them circumnavigated the globe on their Semester at Sea in 1996. In the year of his retirement, Gene received the Burma-Bucknell Bowl Award for outstanding contributions to intercultural and international understanding.

Gene designed and supervised the construction of a spectacular retirement home in rural Mifflinburg, and married Genelle Sweetser in 2004. Soon, they moved and gave new life to a beloved cabin on Penn’s Creek. Gene became a course leader for the Bucknell Institute for Lifelong Learning (BILL) and found pride and joy in his grandchildren. He also nurtured deep and enduring relationships with a number of pets, especially Woody, Sheba, and Darwin, whom he treated as family. In 2017, Gene moved to Heritage Springs in Lewisburg, where he reconnected with his earlier scholarship and advocated for the importance of good, wholesome food in the treatment of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Gene passed away peacefully in the company of family on his 87th birthday.

Gene is survived by a sister, Phyllis (Grady) of Dayton, Ohio; his first wife, Mary (Stratton) of Lexington, VA; his second wife, Lavonne (Poteet) of Lewisburg; his third wife, Genelle (Sweetser) of Mifflinburg; four children: Christopher (Anne Mather Chenoweth), of El Cerrito, CA; Jonathan (Kathleen Sihler), of Cedar Falls, IA; Amy (Robert Lexa), of Crozet, VA; and Nathaniel (Alexa McMahon Poteet), of Washington, D.C.; and eight grandchildren: Catherine, Daniel, Tilden, Claire, Bevin, Kellen, Calvin, Zara. He also lives on in the contribution of his mortal body to the cause of medical education.

A celebration of Gene’s life will be held at 11 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 11, at 2295 Wildwood Road, Mifflinburg. All are welcome.

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