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Walter F. Berns Jr. Postbaccalaureate ’48–’49

Walter F. Berns Jr., special postbaccalaureate student in 1948–49, January 10, 2015, in Bethesda, Maryland. Noted academic and constitutional scholar Walter Berns served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and came to Reed as a postbaccalaureate student. After earning a BS from the University of Iowa and a PhD from the University of Chicago, he taught at Louisiana State University and at Yale. He joined the faculty at Cornell University in 1959, leaving a decade later after faculty granted amnesty to campus militants who had threatened them with violence during a civil rights takeover. Walter later reflected, “Tyranny is the natural and inevitable mode of government for the shameless and self-indulgent who have carried liberty beyond any restraint, natural, and conventional.” He went on to the University of Toronto and then to Georgetown University, where he was a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. Walter’s focus was on political philosophy and constitutional law, and he wrote about democracy, the Constitution, and patriotism, including a collection of essays, Democracy and the Constitution (2006). He was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2005. His choice to pursue an academic—rather than literary—career was attributed to his meeting Frieda Lawrence, widow of D.H. Lawrence, while he was a waiter in Taos, New Mexico, after the war. Survivors include his wife, Irene Lyons, whom he married in 1951; two daughters and a son; and six grandchildren.

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2015

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