Student Voice


May 29, 2024



UWRF professor dies after battle with cancer

February 12, 2009

UW-River Falls political science professor Tracey Gladstone-Sovell, 54, died Feb. 4 after a 20-month battle with brain cancer.

She spent her final time with her family and friends in the home of her father-in-law’s in Minneapolis.

Gladstone-Sovell was first diagnosed with brain cancer in June 2007.

According to Davida Alperin, a UWRF political science professor, Gladstone-Sovell began receiving painful headaches in the spring of 2007, but assumed it was allergies and would soon pass. After the persuasion of her family and friends, she went to the hospital where doctors discovered a brain tumor.

Gladstone-Sovell fought the disease using several treatment methods throughout the course of the battle.

“She had brain surgery but they were not able to remove it all. She then went through a series of chemo and radiation. Eventually, when it stopped working, she went on some experimental drugs,” Mary Zoubek, a student and close friend, said.

According to political science Chair Wes Chapin, Gladstone-Sovell tried with every ounce of being and willpower to teach. She returned working in the fall but, her health did not allow her to continue and she went on a work-leave halfway through the semester.

“I think it is a difficult time for all of us. We have been hoping that her cancer would go into remission, so we watched her fight violently and it’s a lost and a sad situation,” Alperin said.

Gladstone-Sovell began teaching political science at UWRF in the fall of 1986. Throughout her teaching career, she accomplished many achievements.

Gladstone-Sovell was the previous chair of the political science department, and the co-author of “The Web of Democracy,” an American politics textbook. She was also awarded the 2007 College of Arts and Sciences University Service Award, worked on the American Democracy Project and was a strong advocate of technology in the classroom, according to the UWRF political science department Web site.

“She was a leader of the department even when she was not the chair because she had a lot of experience and knew how the University worked,” political science professor Neil Kraus said.

Among Gladstone-Sovell’s numerous accomplishments within the University, as well as her impeccable drive to help others, her role as a professor was a perfect fit.

“Tracey absolutely loved interacting with students as a teacher, advisor, coach and advocate. I don’t think she could have chosen a better profession for her passion and skills,” Chapin said.

Gladstone-Sovell filled her small shoes as a professor by guiding her students with enthusiasm and knowledge.

“She stands less than five foot but she could stand her ground any day. She was very passionate about teaching if the students were willing to learn,” Zoubek said. “She structured her classes in such a way that it wasn’t just a normal class when she was teaching.”

Students were not the only ones on campus who went to Gladstone-Sovell for help and direction.

“She didn’t only help students learn, she also helped me,” Tricia Davis, professor and close friend, said at Gladstone-Sovell’s funeral service. “Tracey was a mentor to me and I don’t know if she knew that. If I need advice on anything, I could go to Tracey.”

Outside the classroom, Gladstone-Sovell was a loyal friend and a strong shoulder to students.

“She wasn’t like the typical professor. She was so much more. I would tell her about my differences with my mom and she would tell me about her very stubborn grandmother,” Zoubek said. “Tracey was willing to always listen to me and she shared so much. She even shared her old clothes with me that she had from her college days.”

Even though Gladstone-Sovell did not have any children of her own and her beloved mutt, Tuxedo, passed away a few months ago, she was a mother to her pupils.

“We had a group of us in both political science and international studies that would sit in the caucus room and talk,” Zoubek said. “We called her Mama T because she played the role of a second mom to me.”

When not teaching political philosophy classes or promoting political participation and activism, Gladstone-Sovell participated in several hobbies and activities.
According to Gladstone-Sovell’s Facebook profile, she enjoyed listening to Bruce Springsteen, Green Day and the Beatles.

Gladstone-Sovell was also a strong supporter of the Rolling Stones. The famous words, “you can’t always get what you want….but you…might find that you get what you need” were often heard from Gladstone-Sovell’s classroom discussions or from the radio speakers in her office.

According to Alperin, Gladstone-Sovell also loved to eat chocolate and chopped liver, a Jewish comfort food. During her free time, Gladstone-Sovell loved to knit, bead and do crafts. She eventually incorporated her personal hobby to benefit others in need.

“A couple of years ago she led an effort to knit hats for babies of families living in Afghanistan and Asia who were having difficulty keeping warm because they couldn’t afford clothing and bedding,” Chapin said.

Over her 22 years at the University, Gladstone-Sovell’s petite frame left a large impression on the political science department, faculty, students and friends. Her drive to make a change in students and her power as a professor and a leader on campus will remain in the hearts of the individuals she touched the most.

“I will miss you so much - your fighting spirit and laughing smile,“ Jennifer Willis-Rivera, a communication studies and theatre arts professor, wrote on Gladstone-Sovell’s Facebook profile. “Keep watch over us, throw down lightning bolts when necessary, as I’m sure you will! Be at peace and free from pain my friend.”