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TFAS Mourns The Loss Of Two Outstanding Professors 

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We are saddened by the recent passing of two great educators: Professor William Doherty and Professor Walter Berns.

Doherty passed away suddenly on Dec. 5, 2014. For more than 20 years, he was a professor of the TFAS Institute on Business and Government Affairs (IBGA) and helped design its signature course on “Power and Values in Organizations.” Berns passed on Jan. 10, 2015 at the age of 95. A prominent constitutional scholar, Berns served on the faculty of the TFAS American Institute on Political and Economic Systems (AIPES) in Prague.

We extend our deepest condolences to their family and friends. Their legacy and lessons will continue to live on through the thousands of students they reached throughout their lives.

You can read their full remembrances below.

Professor William Doherty
Professor William Doherty, who taught in the TFAS Institute on Business and Government Affairs (IBGA) for more than 20 years and helped design its signature course, died suddenly on Dec. 5, 2014.

Doherty teamed with Dr. Michael Collins (and previously also with Jessica Teague, Dr. Anthony Moore and Dr. George Peabody) in teaching the course, “Power and Values in Organizations,” which many IBGA students have called, “the best course I ever took.” The course, which is now being offered through George Mason University as “Ethics and Leadership,” engages students in hands-on learning and group activities to demonstrate how power is defined in the professional world and how individual beliefs apply. Students work on creative team projects to analyze their moral beliefs and how they apply in the workplace.

Professor Doherty (right) takes a post TFAS graduation photo in 2013 with his co-teacher Professor Collins (left) and then-student Joel Troutman (IBGA 13).
Professor Doherty (right) takes a post TFAS graduation photo in 2013 with his co-teacher Professor Collins (left) and then-student Joel Troutman (IBGA 13).

One of the works that Doherty taught was Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” a well-crafted play portraying a family dealing with hardships and troubles. In a 2009 interview for a TFAS publication, Doherty remarked, “TFAS attracts high quality students. They are mature, reflective and articulate. I would like them to leave having seriously recognized and considered that tensions between individuals and the organization that may employ them are very serious issues to consider as they seek individual happiness.”

Collins praised Doherty as “a moral man who worked throughout his life for truth, honesty and justice—in the university, in government and in business. I looked forward each year to teaching with him, and I always learned something new from him. I admired Bill for his wisdom, his integrity and his skill as a teacher. I loved him for his good spirits and his generous heart.” Collins added, “Bill was my oldest and closest friend. We went to school together, stayed in touch and later worked together as administrators and teachers at Georgetown University. When we read “Death of a Salesman” together in college, Bill was, even then, engaged by the moral issues the play sets out, and, when he became a teacher, he asked his students to reflect on those issues in the classroom and to remember them when they assumed positions of leadership themselves.”

Doherty began his career at IBM and worked in a broad range of human resource positions both in New York and California. Following his more than 20-year career at IBM, Doherty was associate dean at Georgetown University where he was responsible for professional development programs in executive and leadership development, business administration, human resources and organization development. In recent years he worked at the Government Accountability Office as assistant director in its Strategic Issues Team.

Drawing on his professional experience, Doherty challenged TFAS students to seek out employers whose organizational principles align with their personal principles. He told students that if these principles are aligned, “work can be rewarding in ways that are ultimately more important than financial rewards.”

Doherty received his Bachelor of Science from Fordham University in New York, his master’s degree in liberal studies from Georgetown University and a doctorate in executive leadership (A.B.D.) from The George Washington University.

TFAS President Roger Ream remarked, “Professor Doherty’s legacy includes the lasting influence he had in the TFAS classroom on the lives of hundreds of students he touched each summer. His easy-going manner, his warm disposition and his compassionate personality made him a favorite of students and staff. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife, Gail and his family.”

Professor Walter Berns
Walter Berns, a prominent constitutional scholar who served on the faculty of TFAS’s first overseas institute, died on Jan. 10, 2015 at the age of 95. Berns was a professor emeritus at Georgetown University and a resident scholar emeritus at the American Enterprise Institute.

Berns lecturing TFAS students on political philosophy and the U.S. Constitution during the inaugural TFAS International institute in Prague.
Berns lecturing TFAS students on political philosophy and the U.S. Constitution during the inaugural TFAS International institute in Prague.

In 1993, when TFAS launched its Prague-based American Institute on Political and Economic Systems (AIPES), Berns lectured on political philosophy and the U.S. Constitution. It was fitting that this great scholar of philosophy and constitutional law would present the universal ideas of liberty to students from countries who had just gained freedom from communism. Georgetown Professor Michael Collins remarked, “It was a privilege to work with him in Prague that first year and to listen to his lectures on the Constitution. I admired him and was happy to have his friendship.”

Tony Mecia (ICPES 92), a TFAS alumnus and program assistant during that first program in Prague, commented, “Professor Berns was a giant, but he was very approachable. I remember one very engaging back-and-forth on the merits of the Electoral College, which was not necessarily a popular opinion. His explanation of the moderating influences of the Electoral College still sticks with me every time I hear someone say it’s an anachronism and we should go to popular election of presidents.”

A legendary professor who taught at seven different universities, Berns helped imbue his love of the United States and the U.S. Constitution in the minds of his students. Berns believed America was special because its Constitution is based on the universal principles of liberty; he lamented that “there are now professors who doubt that a nation founded on those principles is entitled to affection.”

Berns (center) meets with President George W. Bush and Laura Bush in the Oval Office after receiving the 2005 National Humanities Medal.
Berns (center) meets with President George W. Bush and Laura Bush in the Oval Office after receiving the 2005 National Humanities Medal.

Quin Hilyer, Georgetown alumnus and newspaper columnist, observed, “James Madison, in particular, leapt from Berns’ lectures in full intellectual color, a still-living paragon of wisdom, decency, practicality, and principle.” National Review’s Jonah Goldberg, said, “He had the soul of a teacher.” TFAS President Roger Ream recalled how Berns walked students through the Federalist Papers. “The students in Prague came from countries just coming out from under communism. Walter was skilled at presenting issues the American founders grappled with in a way that connected them directly to problems faced in the newly emerging democracies of Europe.”

Berns authored numerous books on democracy, the Constitution and patriotism, including “Freedom, Virtue and the First Amendment” (1957), “Taking the Constitution Seriously” (1987), “Making Patriots” (2001) and “Democracy and the Constitution” (2006). President Bush awarded him the National Humanities Medal in 2005.

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