Walter LaFeber lectures in front of a blackboard

LaFeber Memorial Conference Set for Late October at Cornell Tech

Stories You May Like

Once Upon a Time, Canines Cavorted on the Hill—Even in Class

‘LaFeber Posse’ Gears Up to Honor Legendary Professor

Institute of Politics and Global Affairs Wrestles with Today’s Thorniest Issues

Generations of the legendary professor’s students will honor him at ‘Thinking Otherwise’—and a tribute book is in the works

By Joe Wilensky

Registration is open for a three-day conference in NYC to honor the late, great history professor Walter LaFeber. “Thinking Otherwise: How Walter LaFeber Explained the History of U.S. Foreign Relations” will be held October 27–29 on the Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island.

The conference will honor the life and legacy of the eminent historian, who taught for a half century at Cornell and passed away in 2021.

It was organized by a dedicated group of his former students and is sponsored by them, Cornell’s Department of History, and the Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy.

Evan Stewart ’74 with LaFeber at a Cornell Commencement
At Commencement with former student Evan Stewart ’74, JD ’77. (Provided)

The weekend is free and open to the public; registration spots remain available as of early October, although space is limited. Selected events will be livestreamed (a Cornell NetID is required for access).

In addition to the conference, a festschrift (scholarly tribute) will be published in print form by Cornell University Press in fall 2024, and will also be available as a free, open-access ebook.

A festschrift will be published by Cornell University Press in fall 2024.

An oral history project about LaFeber’s impact on generations of policymakers is also in the works, spearheaded by Jeffrey Engel ’95, a history professor at Southern Methodist University and director of its Center for Presidential History.

Stories You May Like

Once Upon a Time, Canines Cavorted on the Hill—Even in Class

‘LaFeber Posse’ Gears Up to Honor Legendary Professor

Engel is amassing material on LaFeber for the center’s Collective Memory Project—tentatively titled “Memories of a Mentor”—and will be conducting interviews during the conference.

Walt LaFeber addresses the crowd at the Beacon Theatre in 2006
Delivering his “farewell lecture” in front of 3,000 fans in NYC in 2006. (Cornell University file photo)

Highlights of the weekend will include:

A conversation with Colleen Barry, dean of the Brooks School; Andrew Tisch ’71, co-chair of Loews Corp.; and Doug Little, PhD ’78, a history professor at Clark University.

A video screening of LaFeber’s famed “last lecture,” which he delivered at Manhattan’s Beacon Theatre in 2006. (The viewing will be followed by an open mic session where alumni can share their memories.)

Panel discussions exploring LaFeber’s many published works and his profound impact on the field of U.S. diplomatic history and foreign relations.

Roundtable talks with many of LaFeber’s former students—who have pursued careers not only in government and the public policy world, but in business and law.

Top: A typical LaFeber lecture: a brief outline on the board and no notes. (Rare and Manuscript Collections)

Published October 3, 2023


  1. Jeff Weiss, Class of 1979

    Look forward to joining!

  2. Jeff Weiss, Class of 1979

    Only the fondest memories of Walt

  3. Maria Kelly Hrabinski, Class of 1988

    He inspired us to achieve excellence. What a blessing to have taken three of his classes.

  4. John Hansen, Class of 1983

    I don’t recall many (any?) other courses having Saturday morning lectures at Cornell, and his were always full. Fond memories. Hoping to attend the livestream parts of this tribute.

  5. Eve Saltman, Class of 1986

    It was an honor and a privilege to have Professor LaFeber as my honors advisor. I learned so much from him. He loved teaching and cared deeply about his students.

  6. Joseph Jonathan Levine, Class of 1963

    He was a superb teacher when I was an undergraduate (1961-63) and provided wonderful guidance to me when I was his TA (1964-68).

  7. Charles Cramton

    His lectures were not to be missed. His breadth of knowledge, keen insight into our country and the world, and spellbinding presentation were a highlight of my undergraduate studies at Cornell.

  8. Mark Ligget, Class of 1982

    Transferring to Cornell direct from the Canal Zone in 1978, right away The Sun assigned me to review Professor LaFeber’s just published book The Panama Canal: The Crisis in Historical Perspective. By way of due diligence, I interviewed the author. I may have at most provided some updates on Panama, but I treasure that review copy, that he inscribed (erroneously but generously)”To Mark, who knows more about this than I do…”.

  9. Jean hinkelman krasnow

    I took Professor LaFeber’s history of American foreign policy course in 1967-68. I graduated in 1968 and taught American History in high schools until 2006. My memories of the course are still vivid: wonderful lectures, challenging readings, an intellectual trip. And an ovation by students at the end of each class.
    Thank you for paying tribute to a great teacher.

  10. Carol Selman, Class of 1968

    His teaching informed my teaching deeply. The Viet Nam teach – ins were a privilege…These at a time –mid 60s–when mainstream news was woefully, well, wrong. (Cornell also had the privilege then of some brilliant French literature TA’s who had resources from France. Looking forward to virtual events.

  11. Steven A. Ludsin, Class of 1970

    I had the very memorable experience of meeting President Frank Rhoades, Professor Alfred Kahn and Professor Walter LaFeber on a flight between Tokyo and Hong Kong in 1989. I was impressed with their stature and friendly attitude. The last lecture at the Beacon Theater in 2006 was truly unforgettable. Thanks to that chance encounter on the flight I had a great weekend in Hong Kong.

  12. James Euchner, Class of 1978

    I was an engineering student, and his course was one of my favorites.

  13. Phyllis Weiss Haserot

    I constantly marveled at Prof. LaFeber’s ability to be so articulate and brilliant without using any notes. I was a Government major but decided to take all of his courses, resulting in a History minor and a life-long appreciation of the vital importance of history.

  14. John Barton, Class of 1977

    He made history come alive. His lectures were captivating stories of international relations and the Cold War. Felt fortunate to have had the opportunity to take his class.

Leave a Comment

Once your comment is approved, your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Other stories You may like