Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

July 26, 2001

OBITUARY: Joseph Pois

Emeritus professor of public administration Joseph Pois died July 12, 2001, from complications of pneumonia. He was 95.

Pois served as professor of public administration at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA) beginning in 1961, his first year in Pittsburgh.

Pois chaired the public administration department from 1961 to 1971 and was associate dean of GSPIA from 1973 to 1975. He was named professor emeritus in 1976 and continued to teach until the early 1990s.

Pois was a member of the Pittsburgh Board of Education from 1973 to 1976 and a member of the Allegheny County Board of Assistance from 1981 to 1990, serving as its chair from 1981 to 1987.

He also was a member of the Allegheny County Bar Association and served on the board of directors of the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, the World Federalist Association and the Zionist Organization of America.

While at GSPIA, Pois was asked by then comptroller general of the United States Elmer Statts to write the official history of the U.S. General Accounting Office, which was published in 1979.

Edward Kiely, a former doctoral student advisee at GSPIA and longtime friend of Pois's, said, "He was an extremely highly regarded professor and had rigorous, high standards in his teaching. He was a stimulating teacher who brought his many experiences to the classroom."

Kiely said Pois went into academia as one of the first recruits of GSPIA founder and inaugural dean, Donald Stone, a friend and colleague.

"Joe was tremendously ambitious intellectually, including continuing to take legal education courses to maintain his status in the bar up until his death," Kiely said. "He credited his love of reading and his intellectual curiosity for his longevity. He was a generous man with many interests, from Gilbert and Sullivan to his love of animals."

By age 23, Pois had earned a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago. He earned a law degree from the Kent College of Law in Chicago in 1934.

In the 1930s Pois began his public service career in the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt as chief of administrative studies for the Bureau of Old Age and Survivors Insurance, the forerunner of the Social Security Administration. From 1939 until 1942 he headed the U.S. budget bureau's administrative and fiscal division.

During World War II, Pois was the second-highest ranking reserve officer in the U.S. Coast Guard and was Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Russell Waesche's chief assistant.

From 1947 to 1961, Pois worked for Signode, Corp., a Chicago steel manufacturer, in several executive positions.

During a three-year leave of absence from Signode, Pois worked under then Gov. Adlai E. Stevenson as Illinois's finance director, according to friend and neighbor Ellie Schoenberger.

Schoenberger said that Pois is credited with reorganizing the Illinois state finance department and ending long-standing corruption there. "That three-year period was absolutely the high point of his professional career in public service," she said.

Schoenberger said Pois decided to enter education later in life "because he was always looking for new challenges. He was a consultant in the 1930s and an executive and a reformer, a lawyer and a professor. He just was interested in everything."

She said Pois had one particularly close feline friend, B'Shairt, a Persian cat named for the Yiddish word for destiny. "That cat kept him alive, I swear, they were that close," Schoenberger said.

Pois was a longtime member of Temple B'nai Israel in the East End before it relocated to Fox Chapel. He joined the New Light Congregation in Squirrel Hill when his mobility became limited.

Pois is survived by two sons, Robert, of Boulder, Colo., and Marc, of Wilkinsburg, and three granddaughters.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 52 years, Rose Tomarkin Pois.

–Peter Hart

Leave a Reply