RIP: Walter D. Connor (1942-2022)

Walter D. Connor, Professor Emeritus of International Relations at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, passed away on January 27, 2022.

Connor helped to pioneer the interdisciplinary study of international relations at BU, as an integral member of the original Center of International Relations, then the Department of International Relations, and finally the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies. He was also a distinguished member of the Department of Political Science, where he served twice as department chair.

“Anyone lucky enough to have known Walter will realize what a loss this is,” said William Grimes, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of International Relations and Political Science at the Pardee School. “He was funny, warm, iconoclastic, and generous. He was also an important scholar of Eastern Europe who wore his expertise lightly and treated everyone as an equal. This morning, I keep hearing the sound of his laughter and remembering how much fun he brought to receptions and even to faculty meetings.”

Throughout his career, Connor has exemplified the interdisciplinary character of teaching and scholarship which is the hallmark of the Pardee School. Trained as a sociologist at Princeton University specializing in Polish and Soviet/Russian society, he extended his scholarly work into the fields of politics and international relations. After beginning his academic career in the University of Michigan’s Department of Sociology, Walter Connor entered government service as Director of Soviet and East European Studies at the Foreign Service Institute for the U.S. Department of State, where he served from 1976 to 1984. His work there was recognized by the Department of State’s Meritorious Honor Award. He then moved to Boston University, where he became one of the few faculty members who received joint appointments in three different departments: Sociology, Political Science, and International Relations. As a trusted adviser and colleague of Ambassador Hermann Eilts, the founding Chairman of the Department of International Relations, Walter Connor helped to shape the study of international relations at Boston University.

“Walter was a brilliant scholar whose assessment of the Soviet Union was remarkably accurate – as attested to by the country’s economic decline and ultimate dissolution,” said Igor Lukes, Professor of International Relations and History at the Pardee School. “His office was a mess, his desk was overflowing with books and stacks of random papers, but he was always squared away and organized. His unmatched personal warmth, candor, openness, and affability made him stand out in a profession that rewards distance and bland politeness. Finally, he was a human being endowed with the gift of faith and a strong ethical anchor.”

“Walter was one of the key figures in building, from its earliest days, Boston University’s vibrant program in International Relations,” stated Erik Goldstein, Professor of International Relations and History at the Pardee School. “His approach to scholarship and teaching assured that inter-disciplinarily became one of the hallmarks of the Pardee School. He was for many years the Director of the East European Studies Program, and his deep knowledge of that region informed generations of students. I especially recall Walter’s dedication to teaching, his irrepressible good humor, his eye for quietly noting the absurd, and most of all his kindness, warmth, and collegiality.”

Professor Connor will be dearly missed by his family, students, colleagues, and friends around the world. His Boston Globe obituary article can be read online.