The Alumnae and Alumni of Vassar College (AAVC) presented the first-ever Outstanding Faculty/Staff Award to Shirley Ecker Boskey Emeritus Professor of Political Science and International Relations Glen Johnson on Saturday, October 21, 2017.
The award honors a faculty or staff member who has demonstrated exemplary service, leadership, and commitment to engage with alumnae/i and current students through a range of programs, initiatives, and activities over a period of years.
Johnson influenced and inspired generations of students during his nearly 40 years of teaching international politics, U.S. foreign policy, South Asian politics, international law, and international human rights in Vassar’s Political Science Department. He also was the founding director of the International Studies Program.
Twice he served as acting president while Vassar’s ninth president, Frances Fergusson, was on sabbatical. According to AAVC board member Monica Vachher ’77, who worked with him as a Vassar trustee during that time, Johnson “brought to that role the same dignity and grace that pervades all of his activities.” Though the campus was, at times, marked with moments of tension and strife, she said, “Glen did not shirk from confronting and dealing with tough issues. But importantly, he managed and defused moments that could have been incendiary, with sensitivity and concern.”
Robert Brigham, the current Shirley Ecker Boskey Professor of History and International Relations, who taught alongside Johnson, said, “Glen lives at the intersection of integrity, intellectualism, generosity, and compassion. For a faculty [member] to have all of those qualities is rare.”
Johnson has made an indelible impression on alumnae/i, as well. He and spouse Sipra are popular hosts of Vassar Travel Program trips—mostly to India and Sri Lanka. Alumnae/i return with great memories of these tours, which inevitably sell out. The couple continues to lead tours, even in retirement. And in a surprise appearance at the end of the October ceremony, the Vassar a cappella group the Accidentals offered Johnson a special tribute in song—a version of “On the Road Again,” with special lyrics (written by David Ringwood) about the Johnsons’ travels.
After retiring from Vassar, Glen Johnson worked part-time for two years at the American University in Cairo, helping to establish their American Studies Program. He has twice been a Fulbright Professor in India, where he took a three-year assignment as Director of the American Studies Research Centre in Hyderabad.
The Outstanding Faculty/Staff Award is the most recent of many awards Johnson has received. For his lifetime contributions to education and human rights, he earned a 2013 Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal from the Eleanor Roosevelt Center at Val-Kill, where he had served as a volunteer in various capacities, including as president of the Board of Directors from 1997–2001.
-Photos by Roman Iwasiwka