Patrick O’Meara: Accomplished Scholar, Teacher, and Internationalist

President's Hall, IU Bloomington

Monday, April 08, 2019

IU President Michael A. McRobbie speaks during the 8th annual O'Meara lecture. Photo by Chaz Mottinger, Indiana University


Good afternoon and thank you for joining us for the 8th annual Patrick O'Meara International Lecture.

This lecture series is named in honor of Indiana University's Vice President Emeritus of International Affairs, Patrick O'Meara, who retired in 2011 after more than three decades of highly meritorious service to Indiana University.

Over the course of his long and truly distinguished career at Indiana University, Patrick worked tirelessly and effectively to support the university’s mission of global engagement. And this lecture series, in which distinguished speakers address critical topics in international affairs, is an appropriate tribute to his legacy.

It is also fitting, for a number of reasons, that we welcome IU alumnus Ambassador David Carden, who served from 2011 to 2013 as Ambassador of the United States to ASEAN—the Association of Southeast Asian Nations—as this year's O'Meara Lecturer.

Southeast Asia is one of the fastest-growing and most dynamic regions of the world, and a region of economic and geopolitical importance that continues to grow.

Among the many highlights of Indiana University's longstanding engagement in Southeast Asia are:

  • more than 70 years of partnership in Thailand, a partnership that has contributed to stronger public administration and teacher education programs within Thailand;
  • steady numbers of students from Southeast Asia coming to IU, including more than 400 students from the ASEAN member nations who currently attend IU,
  • increased research and teaching capacity in the region through the recent establishment of the Southeast Asian and ASEAN Studies Program in IU’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies;
  • and the recent opening of IU’s newest international office—the IU ASEAN Gateway office in central Bangkok.

In fact, I led an IU delegation to Bangkok just five weeks ago to mark the opening of the IU ASEAN Gateway office. While we were there, IU also co-hosted, with the Asia Foundation, an excellent discussion about the future of ASEAN and its relationship with the global community, with Ambassador Carden as one of the distinguished panelists. Patrick will introduce him at greater length in just a moment, and all of us look forward to hearing his insights this afternoon.

I am delighted to welcome a number of special guests this afternoon. I will ask them to stand as I introduce them.

We are joined today by a number of members of Patrick O'Meara’s family. With us are: Patrick’s nephew, Tim O’Meara; Tim’s wife, Bridget; their daughter, Fiora; and Patrick's niece, Jeannie O’Meara. Would you join me in welcoming Patrick’s family members?

I am also delighted to welcome Lauren Robel, Indiana University Executive Vice President and Provost of the Bloomington campus; IU's Vice President for International Affairs, Hannah Buxbaum, who will moderate a question and answer period following Ambassador Carden's lecture; Ambassador Lee Feinstein, founding dean of the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies; and a former O'Meara lecturer, and Dean Emeritus Terry Mason of the IU Bloomington School of Education, who serves as the academic director of the IU ASEAN Gateway Office.

Would you join me in welcoming them?

Patrick O'Meara's career at Indiana Univeristy 

Undoubtedly, many of you are well acquainted with the man for whom this lecture series is named, but, before I invite him to the podium, let me say just a few words about Patrick O’Meara and his distinguished career at Indiana University.

Patrick came to IU from South Africa in the 1960s as a graduate student, and he earned master's and doctoral degrees in political science with a specialty in African politics.

In 1970, he began his teaching career at IU as a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Political Science. In 1972, he received a tenure-track appointment in the then newly established School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

He very quickly developed a reputation as an outstanding scholar in the areas of international development, comparative politics, and African politics. He taught and mentored hundreds of students, many of whom are now faculty members and administrators at universities across the nation and around the world.

In 1972, Patrick became director of the African Studies Program, a role in which he served for more than two decades.

In 1977, IU Press published the first edition of his now-classic textbook, Africa. Now in its fourth edition, the book has, for more than 40 years, been one of the most popular introductory textbooks for African Studies courses in North America.

In 1993, Patrick became Dean of International Programs at IU. And in 2007, when I became IU president, I created the new position of Vice President for International Affairs, because of the rapidly increasing importance of the international and global dimension of higher education and of IU’s mission of global engagement. Patrick, of course, was the natural person to serve as IU’s first vice president for international affairs.

Among his many other accomplishments in that role, he led the effort to create the university’s first international strategic plan, one of the first of its kind in the nation.

Honors and awards

For his dedication to international partnership and higher education, Patrick has been recognized with the Cross of Saint George awarded in Spain; the Warsaw University Medal; the Amicus Poloniae from the Embassy of Poland; an honorary doctorate from the National Institute of Development Administration in Thailand; and the Gold Cross of Merit of the Republic of Hungary.

Patrick has also received a number of Indiana University awards, including the President’s Medal for Excellence, which I had the pleasure of presenting to him in 2011 at the inaugural Patrick O’Meara International Lecture.

Introducing Patrick O'Meara

Though he officially retired in 2011, Patrick continues to serve the university as special advisor to the president.

This lecture series is a most fitting way to honor all that he has given to Indiana University, and to his students, colleagues, and friends over the years.

Would you please join me in welcoming Patrick O'Meara?