By Melissa Mitchell Lester Seligman is a sort of postman of the academic world. Neither impairment of speech nor difficulty in writing can keep him from his appointed rounds - conducting research and publishing in his field. When the 75-year-old professor emeritus of political science suffered a massive stroke 10 years ago, it slowed him considerably. But it did not prevent him from continuing to pursue his long-time research interest - the U.S. presidency. For Seligman the most frustrating part of his disability is his inability to communicate as well as he would like to. "Sometimes I try to speak and there's nothing there," he said. "Other times, I open my mouth and it all comes out." Despite these frustrations, he remains upbeat and optimistic. And he continues to command the respect and admiration of his colleagues. "He's a very dedicated person - very dedicated to the profession, and well-trained in the old-school, University of Chicago tradition," said Marvin Weinbaum, professor of political science and director of the Program in South and West Asian Studies. "He has a very fine, rich background in political science and culture." The author of a number of books and articles on various aspects of political leadership, Seligman is a former head of the American Political Science Association's presidential studies section. Among his career accomplishments, he is most proud of four invitations to share his knowledge of U.S. political processes with the international community. During the 1960s and '70s, he was a visiting professor at Hebrew University, Jerusalem; Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel; University of Umea, Sweden; and University of Aarhus, Denmark. Weinbaum said he was "the person most instrumental in bringing him [Seligman] here in 1972." Weinbaum "knew him by reputation for many years" and finally met him at a conference at the University of Iowa. "I was so very impressed that when he mentioned that he 'could be moved,' I was pretty persistent about getting him to come here," Weinbaum said. Before coming to Illinois, Seligman was director of politics studies at the University of Oregon for 10 years. Weinbaum said he still encounters Seligman's former students - both from Oregon and Illinois - at professional meetings, and adds that "he's got some very loyal students." Among them is Cary Covington, now a professor of political science at Iowa. Covington credits his former teacher as "one of the first persons in political science" to develop the concept of "the coalitional presidency." "The concept - which he came up with while still at Oregon - is in fairly wide currency today," Covington said. In essence, Seligman's thesis maintains that as the presidency has become more important, the role of political parties in the electoral and governing processes has diminished. As a result, modern presidents have been forced to build and nurture various coalitions of their own creation. "In general, he studies the idea of leadership," Covington added. "What do they do and what difference do they make?" Covington said he continues to be amazed that his former professor - despite great adversity - remains so devoted to the pursuit of his scholarship. "Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of us, if we had the intellectual processes and perceptions that he has, would give it up and go fishing," Covington said. "But he has a real burning desire to get his thoughts on paper and expressed. "When you meet him or work with him, what you come away with is his character - and determination and ambition and breadth of thought. On top of that, what's so incredible is how good-natured he is about it all." Covington's first contact with Seligman came in the mid-1970s. "One of the early highlights of being a graduate student in a class with him was when he asked two of us to come to his house after class," Covington said. "He invited us into his study and asked us if we would work with him on a couple of projects. Of course, we were very intimidated and nervous to be working with a full professor, but when we left, we were walking 2 feet off the ground." Covington initially worked with Seligman on some papers focusing on institutionalization in the presidency. Later, Seligman became Covington's dissertation adviser. After Covington received his doctorate and joined the Iowa faculty, the pair kept in touch. Meanwhile, Seligman continued work on a project he had begun in the late 1970s - a study of the growing divergence between electoral and governing coalitions in the presidency. The work was published in 1989 as a book, "The Coalitional Presidency," which Seligman co-wrote with Covington. "What served as a catalyst for our working together again was his stroke," Covington said. "He had put a lot of work into the book. He had a contract and drafts of several chapters. He approached me, in light of his difficulty with speaking and writing. But the book is really his baby, his conception. I just tried to knit the pieces together and fill in the gaps." Covington's main role in the collaboration, he said, was to write or rewrite text, pass it by his former teacher and make comments or suggestions. In the initial stages of their collaboration, Covington drove to Champaign to meet with Seligman. Eventually, they worked out a plan to meet each other halfway - literally. A work space was graciously provided by Knox College in Galesburg. The pair is in the process of rekindling the collaboration. They are working on a paper to be presented at national meetings next fall. The paper is actually an update and reformulation of the material in "The Coalitional Presidency," which takes into account events of the past eight years. Meanwhile, when he's doing research, Seligman frequently visits the third floor of Lincoln Hall, where he continues to participate in departmental meetings and activities. A large chunk of Seligman's time also is devoted to his family - wife, Judith; a son; a daughter; and four grandchildren.