A Natural Teacher and IU’s Ambassador to the World

Inaugural Patrick O’Meara International Lecture
Whittenberger Auditorium
Indiana Memorial Union
IU Bloomington
Bloomington, Indiana
November 9, 2011


It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the inaugural Patrick O’Meara International Lecture. This lecture series has been named in honor of Patrick O’Meara, who retired after over three decades of meritorious service to Indiana University.

I am delighted to welcome Patrick’s brother Timothy O’Meara, Provost Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame; Patrick’s nephew Timothy; and Associate Dean of the College of Science at Notre Dame, Sister Cathleen Cannon.

Would you all please stand for our recognition and greetings?

I am also pleased to welcome Representative Lee Hamilton and his wife Nancy, IU Trustee Phil Eskew, and University Chancellor Emeritus Ken Gros Louis.

Greetings in Seoul

In 2008, I led a delegation to Seoul, South Korea, where we visited Yonsei University. There we met over a dozen faculty members who had graduated from Indiana University, one of whom was Yeon-Seob Ha, who was then serving as Dean of International Affairs. Dr. Ha greeted all of us warmly, but he reserved a special welcome for Vice President Patrick O’Meara, who had served as his dissertation advisor during Dr. Ha’s time as a doctoral student at IU. 

This meeting, and many others like it around the world, reinforced to me the worldwide impact that Patrick O’Meara has had as an educator and an ambassador of higher education over the many decades that he has served the university.

Prelude and Career at Indiana University

Patrick’s international expertise traces its roots to his early days in South Africa where he was born. He earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Capetown and came to Indiana University in the 1960s. Here he earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in political science with a specialty in African politics.

He is an acclaimed expert in this area, having published a number of books, including the classic textbook Africa, a standard text used by nearly 100 universities and colleges around the world.

In addition to his service on the faculty in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Patrick has served as Director of the African Studies Program, Dean of International Programs, and the first Vice President for International Affairs.

Among his many other accomplishments in that role, he led the effort to create the university’s first international strategic plan, one of the first such plans in the nation.

Though Patrick officially retired June 30th of this year, he graciously agreed to continue serving the university as Chairman of the Center for International Education and Development Assistance and Special Advisor to the President, for which I am most grateful.

Honoring Achievement and Dedication

For his dedication to international partnership and higher education, Patrick has been recognized with the Cross of Saint George awarded in Spain; the Warsaw University Medal; the Amicus Poloniae from the Embassy of Poland; an honorary doctorate from National Institute of Development University in Thailand; and the Gold Cross of Merit of the Republic of Hungary.

Indiana University has awarded him the Thomas Hart Benton Medal, the IU John Ryan Award, and the IU Distinguished Service Award.

Students as a Measure of Achievement

More than these awards, though, are Patrick’s students to whom I would like to return. Such students so often reflect the best values of their closest faculty advisors.

Patrick’s students include Amy Patterson, who chairs the Political Science Department at Calvin College. They include Daniel Green, who is on the faculty at the University of Delaware, and Brent Never, who teaches at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. They include Chancellor of IU Kokomo Michael Harris.

And they include literally hundreds of others, whom he has taught, advised, and mentored over the years.

Having travelled with Patrick around the world, I might count myself among those students for all that I have learned from him about statesmanship, grace, elegance, dignity and wit.

I will never forget what he taught me during a ride we shared on a 1950s, Tito-era plane that he and I took from Zurich to Skopje in Macedonia. Perhaps he will share those details.

He is a natural teacher, and this lecture series is a most fitting way to honor all that he has given to his students, colleagues, and friends over the years.

Bestowing The President’s Medal

I would also like to add to those honors this afternoon.

Patrick, would you please join me at the podium.

In recognition of all that you have done for Indiana University, for your colleagues and students, and for the international community, it is my great pleasure to present you with the highest honor an Indiana University president can bestow: the President’s Medal for Excellence.

This medal itself is a reproduction in silver of the symbolic jewel of office worn by Indiana University’s president at ceremonial occasions. The precious stones represent the university’s cultivation of reading, writing, and arithmetic, as well as the arts, sciences, and humanities.

Criteria for recipients of this honor include distinction in public service, service to Indiana University, achievement in a profession, and/or extraordinary merit and achievement in the arts, humanities, sciences, education, and industry.

Patrick, you have exceeded these criteria during the course of your magnificent career at Indiana University, and for that let me extend our deepest and most grateful thanks.

By virtue of the authority vested in me by the trustees of Indiana University, in gratitude for your extraordinary service, dedication, and leadership over many years, I am privileged and honored to present to you the President’s Medal for Excellence.