Professor Andrew Bacevich (CAS)
Philanthropy: Defined by What’s Important
Professor Andrew Bacevich has always worn a coat of many colors. A retired career officer in the armor branch of the U.S. Army, he is an American historian who specializes in international relations, security studies, American foreign policy, and American diplomatic and military history. He was a professor of international relations and history at Boston University’s Pardee School and is the author of some 17 books and numerous journal articles.
After graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1969, he served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, with later postings in Germany, the Persian Gulf, and in the United States. He retired from the armed services as a colonel in the late 1990s. He holds a PhD in American Diplomatic History from Princeton and taught at West Point and Johns Hopkins before joining the BU faculty in 1998.
Bacevich is also a consistent and loyal donor to BU, including his establishment of a scholarship honoring his son, Andrew John Bacevich (CGS’01, COM’03), a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army, who died in May 2007 while fighting in the Iraq War. The elder Bacevich has also supported history and international relations programs at BU.
Asked about the importance of philanthropy, Bacevich said, “I think people of means have a moral obligation to support causes they believe strongly in. Giving is an acknowledgment of that obligation, and a way to demonstrate what’s important.
“There is also the reality that the support you once received yourself can now be honored through the support you can provide to others.”
Bacevich noted that at this point in his life, he has the privilege of choosing what to support, and to exercise that privilege by benefitting others. “Making that choice,” he said, “means thinking about what is most important to you and defining the worthiness of a cause.” For Bacevich and his wife, he added, education is that cause.
As a young person, Bacevich attended Catholic private schools, so “the American taxpayer wasn’t paying for me.” It meant that with his parents’ support, he was provided with an education through high school. For his college education, his family paid tuition, although tuition didn’t then and doesn’t now cover the whole bill for an education. “So my institution needed to help us provide for the additional costs,” he noted. “Someone else made that possible, so I was the beneficiary of the generosity of someone else. And that is well worth acknowledging through my own choice to give to BU.”
Education for the Baceviches was always a priority: all four Bacevich children were educated, two of them at Boston University. “So clearly,” he says, “we were the beneficiaries of someone else’s generosity.”
After 16 years on the faculty, Professor Bacevich had a special philanthropic element to his giving: “As an insider, I think I came to appreciate how vital the University is and how full of promise. When I arrived—and this is still true for me—I was dazzled by the quality of my colleagues’ teaching and research. It was, and is, an incredibly wonderful company of educators.
“I also watched how much more demanding of the students BU became through the years, through more selective admissions. The quality of the BU student rose as the institution grew. It was evidence of our collective leadership’s commitment to getting better all the time. There is a flourishing and collective drive for excellence here.”
When it comes to deciding when and where to give, Bacevich doesn’t think anyone else can proscribe what’s most important. “I don’t think anyone can tell you what that should be,” he says. “That’s up to you. But for me, for my family, education is worth supporting. Education is important. BU is important.”
“Boston University treated me with kindness and generosity,” he says, “and now I want to see it continue to flourish.”