Walter P. Metzger (1922-2016)


Walter P. Metzger, professor of history at Columbia University for his entire career and the AAUP’s official historian for most of that time, has passed away. Professor Metzger dedicated his entire professional life to the AAUP, both by contributing to the ongoing work of the Association, in particular on Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, and with his research, which focused on the history of higher education, academic freedom, and the AAUP.

Professor Metzger was elected to AAUP membership in 1955 and has the distinction of having served the longest time on Committee A, as a member from 1958 to 1985 and then as senior consultant until 2000. The length of his service on the committee exceeds that of AAUP founder Arthur Lovejoy, who served from 1915 to 1943.

Professor Metzger’s contributions to the historiography of academic freedom and of the AAUP are immeasurable. In addition to the standard work on the history of academic freedom, The Development of Academic Freedom in the United States, co-authored with Richard Hofstadter in 1955, he published a large number of important articles on the subject. The two parts of the book were later published separately as a volume by Hofstadter and another by Metzger. Both remain in print to this day. Professor Metzger also served on investigating committees and policy subcommittees of Committee A, on Council, and as chair of the Committee on the History of the Association when it was first established in the 1950s. Upon his retirement from Committee A, Joan Scott, serving as chair of the committee, quoted a former Committee A chair who wrote to Professor Metzger:

Committee A has been the chief repository of principle in the Association, and perhaps in the academic profession as well, and for these many years you have been a strict but benevolent voice of conscience. If the committee has not always followed the dictates of your conscience, its defections have been exceptional, and I cannot recall its ever reaching an important decision without close attention to your advice. It is one of the special pleasures of Committee A membership that your advice always comes, not only with precision, but with a proper seasoning of similes and metaphors. Surely, if there were a Committee A Hall of Fame, your name, along with Arthur Lovejoy’s, would lead all the rest.

An obituary is forthcoming in the New York Times.

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