Stephen Lasher Schechter

July 18, 2022

Obituary  Please access this link to view livestream of Stephen's funeral service on Thursday 

 Beloved son, husband, father, grandfather, and friend. Gifted scholar and teacher. Tireless advocate for democracy at home and abroad – Stephen Lasher Schechter passed away on July 18, 2022, at age 76.

He was the son of the late William and Blossom Schechter and was born in Washington, DC, and grew up in New Rochelle, New York. The domestic and international turmoil of the 1960s drew him to the study of political science and international affairs at Syracuse University. He earned a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh, the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. For 42 years, Prof. Schechter’s knowledge and passion for democratic governance and civic engagement inspired students at Russell Sage College, Troy, NY. Since 2020, he has held the post of Professor Emeritus of History and Society, and he continued his teaching and scholarship until just weeks before his death from cancer.

No ivory tower scholar, Schechter practiced what he taught – from service on local boards to his contributions to civic development and engagement around the world. He worked with the Troy City Planning Department to reinvigorate the city’s neighborhoods and train a new generation of neighborhood leaders. Nationally, as advisor to Assistant for Intergovernmental Affairs and Chairman of the U.S. Advisory Commission for Intergovernmental Relations, Schechter helped bring together the academic and policy-making communities to inform President Ronald Reagan’s New Federalism initiatives. He served as Executive Director of the New York State Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution. Under his leadership, the commission produced more books and educational material than any other state. His work for the bicentennial drew him to apply his knowledge and experience to school and university civic education in the US and abroad. He conceived and directed Crossroads, a K-16 American history and civics curriculum project partnering the Niskayuna School District and The Sage Colleges; this led to his chairing the New York State Review Panel for the National Civics Standards.

Internationally, many ministries of education, university faculty, and community leaders from Russia and its post-Soviet regions to Mongolia sought Schechter’s expertise. He advised officials in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the areas of local government, civil society, federalism, and civics curriculum. The President of Mongolia awarded Schechter the “Friendship Medal of Mongolia,” only the second American to receive that honor, for his contribution to democratic civic development in Mongolia. Numerous related federally-funded projects expanded his work to Asia and the Middle East. Among his signature achievements was the nationwide adoption of a version of the Center for Civic Education’s Project Citizen in Russia. Schechter co-edited and authored numerous publications for Russian school and university educators, including The Active Classroom and Basics of Civic Education for Universities. His Russian counterpart –

Natalia Voskrensenskaya – commented on their many years of collaboration: “Stephen Schechter proved himself a remarkable scholar. He showed great understanding of the political situation and addressed the psychology and mentality of his readers and colleagues with tact and sensitivity. What is especially important, he has always been a warm and devoted friend. He is in our hearts and always will be.”

The legacy of Schechter’s scholarship will continue to influence the field. He was Editor-in-Chief of a five-volume encyclopedia titled American Governance, honored with the American Library Association Award as one of the best reference works of 2017. He authored or co-authored curriculum guides and materials for both U.S. and international educators and students. He was lead author of Exploring Political Ideas: Concepts That Shape our World, a textbook on comparative politics for American high school and college students, and innumerable journal articles on federalism and comparative federal systems. The national Center for the Study of Federalism recently adopted a resolution expressing “their deep appreciation and highest regard for his dedicated commitment and his many outstanding contributions to the work of the Center and civic participation in federal democracy.”

At the center of Stephen’s life and work was his wife of 29 years, Stephanie. Their loving bond revealed itself through their children, their friendships, and the many commitments they shared. Whether hosting international exchange teachers, refining curriculum materials, helping refugees find a new home, or exploring the world, Stephen and Stephanie’s teamwork magnified the capacities of each.

Stephen loved classical music, whether produced by great orchestras or by his granddaughter’s violin. His culinary skills were unrivaled, and he generously shared his recipes. His extensive library fed his mind and imagination, and he enjoyed classic TV and novels of the West. Another passion was his love for Judaism, particularly his involvement with Congregation Agudat Achim. He was an excellent (and persistent) teacher beyond the classroom, including patiently teaching his granddaughter to ride a bike. He encouraged everyone to do their best and brought out the best in everyone.

In addition to his wife, Stephen is survived by his daughter, Sarah Davis and granddaughter Juliana, step-daughter Kelly Sommerman and her family, and the many friends, colleagues and former students who were enriched by knowing him. His memory will be a blessing.

Information about the memorial service on Thursday, July 21 (11:00 EDT/15:00 UTC) is available from the Levine Memorial Chapel ( In lieu of flowers, the family requests that any donations be made to Social Justice/Tikkun Olam at Congregation Agudat Achim “Synagogue funds” ( or the Refugee and Immigrant Support Services of Emmaus (RISSE) for “Citizenship Preparation.

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Funeral Service
July 21, 2022

11:00 AM
Congregation Agudat Achim 2117 Union Street Schenectady

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