Somvichian leaves a lasting impact

Dr. Kamol Somvichian joined the University of La Verne in 1988 as an Associate Professor of Political Science. / file photo by Elaine Zukle
Dr. Kamol Somvichian joined the University of La Verne in 1988 as an associate professor of political science. / file photo by Elaine Zukle

Brooke Grasso
Editor in Chief
Christina Garcia
News Editor

Dr. Kamol Somvichian, political science professor emeritus died Feb. 8 at the age of 80.

Born in Bangkok, Thailand Dr. Somvichian held many dignified international roles throughout his life before coming to University of La Verne in 1988 where he stayed until 2011.

“He was a gateway to bigger ideas and the whole globe in terms of politics, economics and culture,” said Kristin Howland, department manager of history and political science. “He was with us for a long time and he will be remembered, always.”

Some of his public service roles include being the special assistant to the Deputy Prime Minister for economic affairs, adviser to the speaker of the house of representatives, adviser to the governor of Bangkok and a member of Bangkok Parliament where he helped develop a new Thai Constitution.

His vast experience in politics allowed him to bring his personal stories to class and share them with his students.

“One of the things people enjoyed about his classes was the way he could personalize some of the concepts that he was teaching and that’s because he had such a long career in international politics and economics,” Professor of Political Science Jason Neidleman said.

“He was immensely knowledgeable and he had enormous life experience in politics and banking,”Professor of History Kenneth Marcus said. “He was able to bring a lot of that world experience to the department.”

Dr. Somvichian graduated from the University of London in 1969 with a doctorate in politics and economic development. Throughout his academic career he received various awards including the Visiting Fulbright Professorship, Woodrow Wilson Guest Fellowship and the Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship.

His career took him all over the world from Bangkok, London, Pennsylvania, Los Angeles and lead him to University of La Verne where he lived in Claremont with his wife Marielena and two children, Marisa and Whitty.

With such global personal and professional experience, Dr. Somvichian always encouraged students to think on a larger scale.

“He was passionate about our students and getting people to think globally and not just about our own little corner of the universe,” Howland said. “He really had that global perspective and he was amazing in the classroom.”

A service will be held for Dr. Somvichian 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Memory Garden Memorial Park.

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Christina Garcia can be reached at

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