Ted Jelen, a professor credited with helping raise the profile of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) political science department over the past two decades, died Tuesday after a lengthy illness. He was 65.
Jelen, who came to the university in 1997 as department chair and full professor, was widely regarded as a leading scholar of religion and politics, according to John Tuman, current department chair and professor.
Tuman said Jelen and his scholarly work helped increase the department’s visibility nationally and internationally.
“He really had an international reputation in the area of religion and politics,” Tuman said in an interview Wednesday. “He was an extremely productive scholar. He had tremendous drive, and his research was widely cited.”
Jelen was a driving force in the recognition of the growing importance and influence of religion in American politics, Tuman said.
He frequently volunteered to teach courses the department needed to offer, and mentored Ph.D. and master’s students. “He helped many of them get published in well-respected journals,” Tuman said.
Jelen was also very effective in the classroom. “He had high academic standards. He challenged his students to learn,” Tuman said.
He would often pose interesting questions to stimulate lively discussion among his students, Tuman said. In one of his courses, Morality and Politics, Jelen had a deft way of framing controversial and divisive issues, such as reproductive rights, in a manner that got students to open up and discuss them. “I think that really speaks to his effectiveness as a teacher.”