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  • Dr. Harold Isaacs:The Fine Man and the Leaders’ Leader
  • Dr. Assefaw Bariagaber

I first met Dr. Harold Isaacs at the Annual Conference of the Association of Third World Studies (ATWS) held at the University of Florida about 25 years ago. It was my maiden attendance at a professional conference of its kind. At the time, I was a candidate for the Master of Arts in Political Science at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale (SIU-C), and working for an accelerated entry into the Ph.D. program. When Harold saw me – yes, it was the first time he saw me at the conference – he came and introduced himself. I said that I was a graduate student and it was my first ever attendance at a professional conference. We talked for about 30 minutes on many issues, including, where I was from originally, my education and my area of specialization, my research interests and what I planned to do in the future. There and then, I saw a man who hardly knew me but was very much interested in my personal story and in my academic success. I wondered why he took the time to talk to me when he was busy with running the conference, and this included participant registration, answering participant queries, checking to make sure that the meeting rooms had working video/audio equipment, and shepherding participants to conference rooms so that the panels started and ended on time. I also remember he came to the panel I was in and attended my presentation in full. Why would he do that when he had so many important things to attend to? I guess it was his way of telling a novice like me that this was what scholars do. I learned the lesson and went on to be a devoted member of ATWS, and a member of other professional associations, all the while when I was still a student. [End Page 17]

For some reason, which I cannot explain, Harold found great interest in my academic success. Indeed, towards the end of the conference, he asked me if I would be interested in submitting a revised version of my paper for possible publication in the Journal of Third World Studies (JTWS). Per his advice, I submitted a revised version of the paper, which upon further revisions, was published in the Spring 1989 issue of the journal. It was my first article published in a refereed journal, and I must say that, at the time, it was a big deal in the Department of Political Science, SUI-C, for a student to be able to publish. Could I have thought of publishing when I was a student? Perhaps at a later time, yes, but I did not know much about student publishing at that early stage in my graduate program. Therefore, all the credit goes to Harold for my first publication. And in the years that followed, especially after I joined Seton Hall University as a faculty member, Harold and I often spoke about places in Northern New Jersey, including Seton Hall University, the City of Newark where he was born, Seton Hall Preparatory School, and Northfield Avenue, all of which are places and institutions near my home in West Orange. Yes, Harold completed his university education in Alabama and became a faculty member and lived in Georgia for a big chunk of his life, but he fondly remembered his early years in Northern New Jersey. This added to the closeness we enjoyed throughout the many years.

I have said that Harold was very interested in my success. But, as I later learned, he was also interested in the success of others – the novice like me who looked for guidance and others who had already established themselves within academia. He was a rare breed that exuded a sense of satisfaction at the success of others. Indeed, Harold was a fine man to the core!

Harold was also an accomplished leader. He took [End Page 18] timely and realistic initiatives where it mattered. If it was not so, how can we explain his founding of ATWS in 1983 to become the largest professional organization devoted to the study of the Third...


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