I came to Williams in the fall of 1939 with my bride from Harvard. I left in 1942 right after Pearl Harbor and worked in two or three war agencies in Washington until 1945, and I came back to Williams after the war. I was teaching courses in constitutional law, civil liberties, criminal justice, courses in which I taught from readings and case materials. It was a kind of teaching which did not lend itself to the kind of thing that Bob wanted to do. I met him in ’55. Basically he was a philosopher. The trappings of political science, the statistics, the charts, the data, the formalities of political science, I don’t think had much appeal for him. “The unexamined life is not worth living” was a favorite way of putting this. You have to look at your own life and your own convictions and your own opinions and ask yourself where they come from and why do I hold them and how good are they? And he kept pushing at the boundaries of these convictions in such a way that I’m sure it made a number of students very uncomfortable. They would make some adults very uncomfortable. But he had an extraordinary relationship with his students. At least some of them–or maybe most of them–reacted to him very, very strongly, profoundly and it was clear that he had a kind of attraction for them that most other professors did not really have. I’m not sure whether it was because he was more on their level or because of his method of teaching. Most of his method was very Socratic. His method was to confer with his students and ask them questions and keep pushing them with questions until they discovered something about themselves. Some of them found it rather disturbing but most of them I won’t say fell in love with Bob but became very, very close to Bob both intellectually and emotionally, more so than with most other professors on the faculty.

Vince Barnett,
Former Political Science Department Chairman