Professor of Political Science Emeritus
OK. It’s confession time. In the Fall of 1972 the chartered bus pulled out of the Lincoln Tunnel and on to 42nd Street, passed by the gauntlet of porn shops, passed the New York Public Library and eventually turned left on 1st Avenue in front of the United Nations loaded with 42 college students from all over the country. Thus began not only my first day helping to direct Drew’s Semester on the United Nations, but my very first visit to New York City. That’s right. I had traveled all over the Pacific Rim while serving in Vietnam, but had never been on the east coast much less the U.N. I had taken loads of graduate courses in international relations and foreign policy, but the world’s premier international organization had not been a high priority. My colleague, Dick Rhone, had specialized in U.N. affairs at Penn State and through his generous tutoring during that first year, guided me through the subtleties of multilateral diplomacy as practiced in New York.
For the next 15 years I worked with Dick riding in to the city twice a week, attending UN meetings and bringing in speakers who were international civil servants or part of member state delegations. In the early years we held classes on the top floor of the Church Center overlooking the UN and later moved to our permanent facilities in the concourse. The early classes were made up of predominantly non-Drew students that came from a wide variety of schools like Wooster, Trinity, Ohio Wesleyan, Franklin and Marshall, Nebraska Wesleyan, Willamette, Rutgers, Gettysburg, Duke, Oklahoma City College, Sacramento State College, and UCLA. As the years passed, Dick Rhone and I more vigorously recruited Drew students to the program to give it more balance.
My memories of those 15 years include brilliant speakers who shared more information than they probably should have, giving students an invaluable window into global diplomacy. We witnessed history in the making when President Richard Nixon traveled to the People’s Republic of China for the first state visit after thirty years of virtually no contact with the Asian giant. Working with Dick and me was Dr. F.Y. Chai, a retired diplomat with close ties to both the Soviet and Chinese delegations. The three of us were in the Delegates Lounge at the UN when a representative from the Soviet delegation came up and wanted a private word with Dr. Chai. As it turned out, the Soviets were going crazy worrying about a secret deal being struck between the U.S. and China directed against the USSR. Later that day, Dr. Chai shared his thoughts on the matter with the U.N. Semester students. What a moment.
To break the monotony of the bus ride to and from New York, we had intense discussions with the students on newsworthy topics, like whether Richard Nixon had really known about the Watergate break-in. We also debated what were the ten greatest movies ever made and had “celebrity spotting” contests with the names of the famous scribbled on a corner of the blackboard in the classroom — Woody Allen, Ted Kennedy, Christie Brinkley, Alan Sheppard. Great fun.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Drew’s Semester on the United Nations. Since 1962, it has provided hundreds and hundreds of students a unique view into the world of diplomacy. Some of those students found their life’s work in the world of international relations and I like to think their semester long experience in New York had something to do with it. The program has also been an incredibly valuable asset to the university, helping to elevate the institution’s national profile. One of the great joys of co-directing the program was being associated with exceptional colleagues like Dick Rhone, F.Y. Chai and of course the marvelous Jean Gazarian. I can say without reservation that it was a pleasure and an honor to be part of one of Drew’s signature programs and the lives of all those involved.