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As Quandt Eyes Retirement, He Leaves a 'Legacy of Distinction'

April 30, 2012 — It's not easy for William Quandt to talk about retirement.

After all, the University of Virginia professor has had a very distinguished career: As a former senior staff member of the National Security Council and aide to President Carter, he helped craft the 1978 Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt. He is an expert on the Middle East, particularly Egypt, Israel and American foreign policy in the region. He was a consultant to ABC News during the Gulf War. And for the past 18 years, he has served as the Edward R. Stettinius Jr. Professor of Politics in the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.

More than anything, though, he worries about abandoning his students.

"I've built up something of a Middle East politics following here, and I didn't want it to just disappear," Quandt said. "I don't want to leave a lot of students behind who might have liked to study Middle East politics and won't be able to do so. That is my main concern."

When he heard about the College's Legacy of Distinction Fund, however, Quandt allowed himself to start thinking about the possibility of taking on emeritus status. This innovative funding initiative provides the resources necessary to hire new faculty in key departments before retiring professors leave openings that might be difficult to fill.

Legacy of Distinction funds cover the salaries of these incoming faculty members for up to three years as they overlap with a retiring colleague. Enthusiasm for this initiative is evident: The College Foundation recently celebrated the completion of its fundraising goal of $5 million in private donations for the fund, after launching the fund in the fall of 2009.

"We are enormously grateful to the College Foundation Board and the many donors who have contributed to the success of this important initiative," said Meredith Jung-En Woo, Buckner W. Clay Dean of Arts & Sciences. "The Legacy of Distinction Fund is paying immediate benefits and earning strong support in helping us bolster the quality and reach of one of the College's most precious resources – our faculty."

The fund is aimed at the very essence of the student experience – the passing down of invaluable teaching tools and expertise between generations of faculty, Woo said. "This period of collaboration will help us attract the next generation of scholars and teachers who will help define and shape the intellectual core of the College for the next 30 to 40 years," she said.

Jonah Schulhofer-Wohl, who is completing his Ph.D. at Yale University and a fellowship at Princeton University, is the latest faculty member hired through the Legacy of Distinction. Schulhofer-Wohl is a specialist on civil wars with a focus on the politics of the Middle East and, much to Quandt's relief, will step in for the politics professor when he retires in the summer of 2013.

"I don't think I'd ever be able to replace Bill Quandt, but I really look forward to learning from him as I'm starting my career," Schulhofer-Wohl said.

For Quandt, the Legacy of Distinction arrangement is a perfect fit.

"Budget realities mean that deans don't always have the resources to replace a faculty member with someone in the same field," he said. "And for reasons that are personal to me, I didn't want to leave and see this vacuum of nobody being hired to teach Middle East politics. That's what the Legacy of Distinction is designed for: to ensure that there will be continuity and at least a brief period of overlap, if at all possible."

With 111 of its 460 tenured faculty members age 65 or older – including 53 over the age of 70 – the College is at an unprecedented crossroads. Over the next few years, retiring or departing faculty and increases in enrollment may require the College to hire more than 200 faculty members.

Because of the Legacy of Distinction Fund, departments are not limited to looking for new faculty members only at the assistant professor level; it allows them to consider candidates whose research, scholarship and teaching experience place them at a more senior level.

Two years ago, for example, the Corcoran Department of History was able to hire two candidates – Elizabeth Varon and William Hitchcock – who were already distinguished professors at another leading institution. Other new faculty hired through this program include Robert Cox in biology, R. Craig Group in physics and Timo von Oertzen in psychology.

Even for assistant professors, the Legacy of Distinction program offers something of great value: the opportunity to benefit from the wisdom of more senior colleagues. When Schulhofer-Wohl arrives at the University this fall, for example, he and Quandt have worked out a plan to co-teach two courses, one of which is a popular course that Quandt has built over his many years at the University and will likely be a mainstay of Schulhofer-Wohl's future course load.

"This is a large lecture class, an introduction to comparative politics of the Middle East," Schulhofer-Wohl said. "More than 200 students take it every year, and that's clearly due in no small part to Dr. Quandt and what he brings to it. It's an amazing opportunity for me to be able to work so closely with such a distinguished scholar in this way. I don't think many people have that kind of chance."

– by Linda J. Kobert

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