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Inarguable Legacy

A faculty scholars endowment supports and celebrates interdisciplinary undergraduate teaching, and in the process honors Bob McClure.

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A faculty scholars endowment supports and celebrates interdisciplinary undergraduate teaching, and in the process honors Bob McClure.

As an associate dean overseeing fund-raising and communications at Maxwell, Bob McClure (with then-Dean John Palmer) secured a $4-million grant that supported a range of innovative undergraduate teaching initiatives, including the MAX Courses — team-taught, interdisciplinary, public affairs courses that now sit at the core of the Citizenship and Civic Engagement degree.

After he left the deanship in 2003, he then taught in the MAX Courses and was soon named to direct them, eventually as the Chapple Family Professor of Citizenship and Democracy. He had already been teaching at Maxwell since 1969, known to generations of students as a lively, passionate, and challenging professor of not only political science (his discipline) but also critical thinking. McClure worked to foster in his students a capacity for “intelligent patriotism” (a term he borrowed from Maxwell School founding donor George Maxwell).

It’s only fitting, then, that a new faculty scholars program — recognizing top teachers with a special emphasis on lower-division, team-taught, interdisciplinary courses — should be named the Robert D. McClure Professors of Teaching Excellence.

The McClure Fund was created by Palmer and his wife Stephanie in 2003, when both Palmer and McClure left the Dean’s Office. “Bob was an exceptional teacher himself. But more importantly, he was a tireless and passionate advocate for undergraduate teaching excellence during our 14 years together in the Dean’s Office,” says John Palmer, now a University Professor.

Additional lead gifts from Maxwell School Advisory Board members Samuel Goekjian, Cathy Daicoff, and John Chapple, with support from other board members, alumni, and friends of the School, round out the fund. The first McClure Scholars were to be named after the honoree’s retirement, which came in 2014. (He resides now in Florida.)

“A great school needs to put undergraduates first. Bob always did that.”
— Matthew Cleary

All seven of the inaugural McClure Professors teach in the MAX Courses. They are Peter Castro, a faculty member in anthropology; Craige B. Champion, history; Matthew R. Cleary, political science; Donald Dutkowsky, economics; Miriam Elman, political science; Prema Kurien, sociology; and John Western, geography. They will hold the McClure Professor designation for three years.

The significance of McClure’s legacy is not lost on them. “Bob knew full well that the faculty at Maxwell are always being pulled in different directions,” says Cleary. “But a great school needs to put undergraduates first. Bob always did that in his own professional life, and he is a constant source of encouragement for other faculty to do the same.”

Castro, terming the appointment a “great honor,” describes McClure as “a strong promoter of faculty creativity. Such encouragement and promotion were vital for keeping the MAX Courses relevant, exciting, and worthwhile for both faculty and students.”

“In the MAX Courses, our students are given the resources to critically assess the central controversies and challenges of our time,” says Elman. “Bob McClure saw this as the courses’ essential value. They are a vehicle for training young people how to be engaged citizens, helping teach them to debate and dialogue on controversial issues in a civil manner and with an open mind. I can’t think of a set of courses more central to the School’s mission. It’s a pleasure and a privilege to be associated with Bob’s legacy and this contribution he made to Maxwell.”

— Dana Cooke

This article appeared in the fall 2016 print edition of Maxwell Perspective; © 2016 Maxwell School of Syracuse University. To request a copy, e-mail dlcooke@maxwell.syr.edu.