In Memoriam: Robert Schuettinger

I think I first met Bob Schuettinger in 1999. From that first meeting, sitting in Christopher’s on N. Wayne Ave., with him  holding forth in his distinct Yankee accent to Allen Guelzo and me, regaling us with a taste of his innumerable eccentricities (“I’ll have another Manhattan, if you don’t mind. They just don’t know how to make these in Oxford.”), and most of all his passion for liberal, humane life and learning, I knew I was in the presence not just of a real character, but of a good one as well. The years only repeatedly proved this, and often in spades. My true measure of Bob (as I always knew him) came when we met again about two years later, though this time Allen wasn’t with me, and we dined at another restaurant. Bob had a friend with him, a lady form DC, and we were joined by a colleague of mine, a rather humorless scold so innocent of imagination that Bob and his friend quickly tired of the conversation, only for my colleague, dauntless in boring us, piped up that her family came from Scotland. At once Bob’s friend pulled out of her purse an article she said had appeared in the London Telegraph about new research showing that Scots were descended from Neanderthals. My colleague, sadly, never got the barb. Bob and I exchanged looks, equal parts horror and glee. It was then he told me that were I ever coming back to Oxford to let him know. So, of course I did.

The first time back was for five weeks at the end of the summer of 2003. He put me up in a house right on St. Michael’s Street in the heart of Oxford, across from the Three Goats Head Pub. It was wonderful. I was there with a political scientist from San Diego State, George, a very devout Roman Catholic who loved to go to the Oratory for Latin Mass. He had graduated, as had Bob, from St. Anthony’s college, Oxford. Bob had studied there under Sir Isaiah Berlin, though the pupil hardly embraced his mentor, with the real exception of Berlin’s outstanding article, “Two Concepts of Liberty.” Bob got an M.A. from St. Anthony’s and it served as a bookend with his other M.A., which he had gotten from Chicago where he had studied under Friedrich Hayek (who was far more Bob’s mentor). His first book, which I take was an expansion of his MA thesis, was a study of Lord Acton. He gave me a copy, which I just pulled out the other day to show one of my students (Bob’s holding a copy in the picture above). Bob was author or editor of some nineteen books on politics, political economy, and economics. He had a strong sense of monetary policy and wrote often enough on price controls, theoretically, as both Mises and Hayek showed, an ax to the root of any socialist or command economy’s putative economic theory. His articles appeared at all sorts of websites: Mises Institute, Foundation for Economic Education, Foreign Affairs, etc.

Bob taught at both St. Andrews University in Scotland and Yale University (where he had been an Associate Fellow of Davenport College, Yale since 1974). He also lectured at the Kennedy School of Politics in Harvard, and was for a three year term a Visiting Research Fellow in International Relations in Mansfield College, Oxford. He taught an Oxford seminar in diplomacy jointly with Professor Lord Beloff, FBA, Fellow of All Souls College. He was a Visiting Research Fellow of Oxford University’s Rothermere American Institute (he was elected by the RAI’s Fellowship Committee in April 2013), and was an Associate Member of the Senior Common Room of Christ Church, Oxford. He was also appointed by Christ Church to the college’s Board of Benefactors. But this hardly exhausts Bob.

He served as a senior aide in foreign affairs in the U.S. House of Representatives, as deputy to the Under Secretary of State for Security Assistance, as a senior policy aide in foreign policy in the White House and in the Senior Executive Service in the US.. Information Agency and the Pentagon (Director of Long-Range Policy Planning). He was also Assistant Director for National Security Policy in the Reagan Transition Office. He was Director of Studies in the largest think-tank in Washington, The Heritage Foundation, and was founding editor of its social science quarterly, Policy Review, now published by the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. I should note that Bob, despite the above litany, hardly thought well of modern conservativism, especially of those neo-Jacobins, the neoconservatives (Weekly Standard, National Review, John Bolton), as Bob had no stomach for America as world policeman, always running around looking for monsters. He agreed with Randolph Bourne that war was the health of the state, and no freedom ever emerged from the process of war.

Whenever Bob and his fine fellows at the Oxford Study Abroad Program would host me they would always put me up in grand digs. Last time there I was at an apartment in Summertown for six weeks while finishing my last book (and two articles to boot), which I have to think was the nicest of the places they had domiciled me. They also put me up once at Al-Shami bed and breakfast in Jericho where I every morning I dined grandly. They also had the best Shawarma Lahme I have ever had (lamb shawarma). Run by a Muslim from Lebanon, the fine host hated terrorism and reveled in the fact that in Syria and Lebanon, Christians, Shia, Sunni, Alawite, and many others had been living in relative peace for years. I can only think about what pain our government’s stupidity has inflicted on that kind soul. It’s one of the few things I find redeemable about our current lamentable administration is that we have stopped supporting the so-called rebels there. All this to say, Bob knew how to look after me, and I owe him a great debt with regard to at least two of my books, and a few of my articles and papers. I had hoped to go over to Oxford this summer, but EU’s financial problems rendered that a shattered hope.

On Friday evenings the crew from OSAP would meet, usually at the Red Lion, for drinks. Many a night Bob was there as well. He would also take us to other places for dinner or lunch. Bob knew how to entertain with food as well as his wit and stories. He introduced me to all sorts of characters while there, Americans then living in England, Americans who were there for study or who brought students to Bob’s program, or all sorts of foreign nationals then resident in Oxford. It was always an eye-opening experience with Bob and his crew. Of course, the fellows who worked at OSAP were themselves quite a cast, including Tim (who will probably never finish his dissertation, but has already published two books), Rupert (whose father is one of the most renowned modern European historians alive, and who told Oxford where to get off), and Adam, who had no academic pretensions, but was one of the best mates one could hope to run into. He had a great dog too, named Bella. Such Friday nights as these gentlemen treated me to could make for unproductive Saturdays, so I had to always pace myself. Yet these were no end-of-the-week binges, for among them came all sorts of academics, including Tudor Jones.

Last week I got word from my friend Tim that Bob, after a short illness, passed away. He was 82. He shall be greatly missed, and both liberal education and lovers of freedom have lost a real champion. I don’t know what this means for OSAP, as Bob, last I spoke with him, had left the program to his brother, but I hope he continues it.

At some point in the next week or so, I shall stop at some respectable establishment of goodwill, order myself a Manhattan, and raise a glass in Bob’s memory. Cheers, Old Friend.

Miserere eius, O Domine, tolle eius peaccatum, et dona ei requiem cum sanctis in luce.

About Gary Cyril Jenkins

Professor of History
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4 Responses to In Memoriam: Robert Schuettinger

  1. Donna Schuettinger says:

    I am so impressed with Uncle Robert life journey in life. Thank you for sharing. He will be missed.

  2. Cyril Jenkins says:

    He will be indeed.

  3. William Meerbott says:

    Thank you for this tribute. He was a smart but humble man who cared more about the education of others than the dollar sign of what he was worth. No amount can ever replace what he gave to his students.
    Glasses up!

  4. Brad Smith says:

    I was able to study in Oxford fifteen years ago, as a Visiting Student from California, thanks to this man. It was a wonderful semester.

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