Donald LM Blackmer, professor emeritus of political science at MIT, died on August 14. He was 91 years old.
A highly esteemed researcher in international studies, he has also been a long-time executive at MIT, holding various positions as Executive Director of the Center for International Studies, Head of the Department of Political Science, Associate Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences (now the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences), Program Director in Science, Technology and Society and Head of Foreign Languages and Literatures at MIT (now MIT Global Studies and Languages).
Blackmer graduated from Harvard College, where he earned a magna cum laude degree in history and literature. He continued his studies at Harvard University, where he obtained a master’s degree in regional studies on the Soviet Union and a doctorate in political science.
He started his career at MIT as an Executive Director and eventually served as Deputy Director of the Center for International Studies (CIS). The CIS was established in 1951 to aid the United States in its Cold War battle against the Soviet Union. Blackmer then recounted the centre’s beginnings in a fascinating book, “The MIT Center for International Studies: The Founding Years 1951-1969,” to mark the center’s 50th anniversary.
“Don was an excellent scholar,” says Richard Samuels, director of CIS and Ford International Professor of Political Science. “He wrote a widely cited book on the international relations of the Italian Communist Party and co-authored a book with Max Millikan on US foreign aid. He has also published on the French Communist Party and the Soviet Union. But, on its own account, scholarship was not its primary vocation. He was an institution builder. In 1956 he turned down a job offer to work as McGeorge Bundy’s assistant at Harvard, to go down the river at MIT to serve as an assistant to Max Millikan and Walt Rostow – the dynamic and powerful founders of the MIT Center for International Studies. . As director general of the young CIS, he enabled them, as well as those he helped them recruit, to shed light on the scholarly landscape.
A 2010 MIT Infinite History interview features Donald LM Blackmer, professor emeritus of political science.
“A man of common sense and extraordinary warmth,” says Eugene Skolnikoff, professor emeritus of political science at Blackmer. “In some ways, Don was a curious candidate for success in an MIT setting. He had a solid background in literature and the humanities, with little exposure to science and technology. to complete, showed MIT leadership how capable Don was to lead and build in an environment that was foreign to his original education or experience. I never thought I would be a part of it.
Blackmer, a steward of institutions, was also a steward of people.
“Don was a stable mentor, an academic advisor, a listener… and, ultimately, a friend. His humility, his benevolent humor, his patience, his intelligence and his elegant demeanor were for me examples of what I could become ”, says Astrid S. Tuminez PhD ’96. Tuminez is president of Utah Valley University and was a former Microsoft executive.
Brian Taylor PhD ’97 thanks Blackmer for encouraging him to complete his thesis. “I think it’s fair to say that he played the biggest role of my committee in strengthening the final project and helping me do it. It was Don who carefully read each chapter as I produced it and gave me detailed and actionable recommendations on how to revise the chapter. This feedback gave me the confidence to continue moving forward on a project that sometimes seemed unmanageable and endless. Don was there throughout the day, even after his retirement, to make sure the thesis was in “good enough shape.” Taylor is professor of political science at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University.
Blackmer is the author of four academic books, including “The Emerging Nations: Their Growth and United States Policy” with Max F. Millikan (Little, Brown & Co., 1961). The book was cited in Foreign Affairs as an important source for US politics. He was also president of the Council for European Studies and a member of the Council for Foreign Relations.
“Don was not only a highly productive scholar and administrator, he was also a gentle and generous colleague. He will be sorely missed in the department, ”said David Singer, Raphael Dorman-Helen Starbuck professor of political science and head of the political science department.
Tributes from Blackmer colleagues and students are available on the Center for International Studies website.