Robert Jervis 1940-2021

Professor Robert Jervis

Robert Jervis, born April 30, 1940, in New York City to Herman Jervis, a lawyer, and Dorothy Jervis, a potter, died of lung cancer on December 9, 2021. He was at home, in the presence of Kathe, his wife of 54 years, and his daughters, Alexa and Lisa. He was a husband, father, and grandfather extraordinaire, a giant in his field of International Relations, a mentor to legions of younger scholars, an enthusiastic provider of feedback to university administrators, a museum goer and opera lover, a skilled napper, and a pioneer of the capsule wardrobe. 

Bob had his early education at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, where teachers consistently noted his fine mind and terrible handwriting. In 1958, he departed for the wilds of Oberlin, Ohio, where he fell in with the wrong crowd – a group of future political science professors (and one geneticist). In 1962, he entered the PhD program for Political Science at the University of California at Berkeley, where he distinguished himself by sleeping on a closet shelf and “almost getting arrested” for his activities in the Free Speech Movement. 

By then he had set his life on its most fateful turn when he went on a 1961 student trip to the Soviet Union, where he met Kathe Weil of Denver – they struck up a conversation while refusing to dance at an orientation event, then struck a bargain in which he carried her suitcase, and she carried his typewriter. They married in 1967, and began to raise their family in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

They moved to Los Angeles in 1974 to follow Bob’s beloved Dodgers, and incidentally for him to join the faculty of the University of California at Los Angeles. There he wrote seminal books and articles, and won a Halloween costume party by wearing a Brooks Brothers suit. In 1980, he and his family moved back to New York and he taught at Columbia University for the rest of his life.

Bob’s productivity was legendary, as was his support of younger scholars and colleagues. His professional accomplishments and his scholarly influence are too vast to summarize. Among the highlights: the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order, election to the American Philosophical Society, and election to the National Academy of Sciences. His doctoral dissertation is still in print. 

He is survived by his wife, daughters Alexa (Greg Racz) and Lisa (Jay Schwartz), grandsons Daniel and Joshua Racz, step-grandson Ezra Schwartz, brother Steven (Susan Weltman), sister-in-law Zarine Weil, nephews  Aaron Weil (Linda Perry), Darius Weil, and niece Delna Weil.

On January 7, 2021, Professor Keren Yarhi-Milo and Thomas Christensen, Interim Dean of the School of International and Public Affairs, paid tribute to Professor Jervis in a Foreign Affairs article.

In the piece, titled, “The Human Factor: How Robert Jervis Reshaped Our Understanding of International Politics,” Yarhi-Milo and Christensen commemorate Jervis’s invaluable contributions to the field of international affairs, revere his unfaltering integrity, curiosity, and bravery, and celebrate his role as an exceptional mentor, colleague, and friend.

Please click here to access the article.

Undergraduate Spotlight

Pi Sigma Alpha Mu Chapter executive board with Professors Russell and Wawro

New members were recently inducted into the Mu Chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha, the national political science honor society. The Mu Chapter is dedicated to students who excel in their political science coursework at Columbia University and who demonstrate a dedication to public service and scholarship. The Mu Chapter welcomes political science students who intend to continue striving in the field of political science in careers in government, public policy, law, research, and academia. 

Pictured above are Professor Gregory WawroProfessor Judith Russell (faculty adviser); and the Mu Chapter executive board: Matt Chagares, Michael Rubin, Amanda Perdomo, Olivia Hussey, Logan Blunt, Jose Ramirez (back); Riley Atkinson, Elizabeth Karpen, and Zara Tayebjee (front).

Mu Chapter is on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.


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New Faculty Spotlight

Faculty gathering in Riverside Park

Faculty members gathered in Riverside Park in September 2021 to welcome Professors Naoki Egami and Junyan Jiang to the department. Professor Egami specializes in political methodology and develops statistical methods for questions in political science and the social sciences. Professor Jiang's research encompasses a range of topics including political leadership, distributive politics, and public opinion. Both are teaching courses in the Fall 2021 semester.