- Reflections on Dr. Harold Isaacs:In Search of International Conference Sites
In 1997, I began working in the History Department at what was then called Armstrong Atlantic State University [we have since dropped the Atlantic from our name]. I was hired to "replace" Dr. Osmos "Oz" Lanier, the diplomatic historian. I came to realize that one does not replace Dr. Lanier so easily. As of 2015, he was still teaching, albeit part-time, at the university. In addition to teaching US foreign relations, I was also the Latin American historian. There were over one dozen historians in the department, but the only other person who specialized in the non-Western World was Dr. George Pruden, who taught both Asian history as well as Middle Eastern history. We have since expanded the number of people teaching [End Page 26] non-Western history in our department to include Dr. Jason Tatlock (Middle East), Dr. Hongjie Wang (Asia), and Dr. Kwaku Nti (Africa). Nevertheless, in 1997, it was just me and George.
George told me all about the Association for Third World Studies (ATWS). I was, however, unable to attend the annual conference in Durham, NC in 1998 since I had spent my entire university travel allowance, as well as some of the mortgage money, on a faculty development seminar led by George in China during the summer of 1998. In 1999, I attended ATWS’ first-ever international conference in Costa Rica. I had no problem with funding, having discovered that the Dean also had a travel budget. The conference in Costa Rica was an awesome academic experience. It was at that conference that I got to meet Dr. Tom Leonard, from the University of North Florida (located in Jacksonville, not Fruit Cove), who organized the conference. I also got to meet Dr. Harold Isaacs, who so relished in the idea of having the conference in a non-Western locale that he proposed holding the annual conference outside the United States every third year. Thus, two years in the United States and one year abroad. Harold was so laid-back and easy going that I had no clue that he was the mastermind behind a major international association. Both Tom and Harold have had a huge impact on my academic career.
Harold encouraged me [he sent books to me then asked if I would review them] to submit book reviews to the Journal of Third World Studies (JTWS). He also wanted me to get more involved in the association. I attended the conferences in Denver (2000) and Savannah (2001), but was unable to attend the conference in Taiwan (2002) since it took place over the Christmas Break. In 2002, I was elected to the Executive Council. Harold wanted me to run for a position. So I ran for Position #3. I had no idea what I was supposed [End Page 27] to do beyond attend the Executive Council meeting at the annual conference. Little did I know what adventures Harold had in store for me. I attended the meeting in Shreveport (2003), where I met Dr. Bill Pederson [the current CEO] and watched Dr. Lauren Eastwood fall into a gopher hole while we raced across an open field to Bill’s Lincoln Center for the Executive Council meeting. At the Executive Council meeting at the conference in Macon (2004), Harold not only convinced me to run for VP/President Elect, he also convinced me to be program and site coordinator for the 2005 conference in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Fortunately, I was not alone. Our Treasurer, Dr. Gary Kline, collected all of the registration fees and made all of the payments. Harold was in charge of printing the programs, ordering the awards, and sending out constant reminders to the members.
The conference in Santo Domingo was a success. Tom Leonard mounted a small moped behind an even smaller Dominican and climbed a hill to visit Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo’s dismantled Caoba Palace, while Tom’s wonderful wife Yvonne and I hid nasty smirks behind a litany of Hail Mary’s. I also witnessed Bill Pederson’s quest for the Lincoln Diner on Avenida Lincoln. Every year I eagerly...