Douglas Chalmers

A university delivers most fully on its promise when the ideas and knowledge generated within its walls are made tangible, expressible, and accessible to all for the betterment of society. For nearly six decades, you have devoted yourself to this vital undertaking as an inspiring teacher and a scholar of rare distinction. An expert on politics, democracy, and social change, you were recruited by Columbia in 1966 and have made it your academic home. You served as Director of the Institute of Latin American Studies (ILAS), Chair of the Department of Political Science, and Interim Dean of the School of International and Public Affairs. Under your leadership, ILAS blossomed into an innovative hub for Latin American political scholarship. As a mentor to generations of budding scholars and public servants, you offered guidance without ego or orthodoxy, creating networks of Latin American experts across disciplines and schools. In so doing, over the span of your illustrious career, you transformed the field. Your acumen as a professor is informed and undergirded by an abiding belief in the centrality of the student experience to the vitality of academic project. You began teaching undergraduates in Columbia’s Core Curriculum as a tenured professor and have continued to do so more than a decade after your official retirement. The affection and admiration your students express toward you are rivaled only by the respect and warmth you have shown them. In one of the Core Curriculum’s foundational texts, Plato’s Republic, Socrates proclaims that education “has the power to awaken the best part of the soul and lead it upward to the study of the best among the things that are.” For your talent, your integrity, and your determination to awaken the best part of the soul in everyone fortunate enough to study with you, Columbia is proud to present you with the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.