Holt Bradford Westerfield, Yale University’s Damon Wells Professor Emeritus of International Studies and a longstanding member of the department of political science, died peacefully on January 19, 2008 at the age of 79 near his summer home in Watch Hill, Rhode Island.
At Yale, his teaching career spanned more than 40 years, in addition to his Yale undergraduate years and boyhood affiliation as a faculty child. His wife, Carolyn, and children, Pamela and Leland, remember a life dedicated to intellect and devoted to family.
As a professor at Yale, Westerfield introduced several generations of future leaders to American foreign policy and statecraft, including current President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney, two directors of the CIA, a director of the NSA, a Secretary of Defense, several seated and former U.S. senators and many accomplished journalists. By one count, Professor Westerfield taught over 10,000 undergraduates at Yale. His two signature lecture courses were “Introduction to International Relations”— called simply “Westerfield” by the students—and “Intelligence and Covert Operations”— better known to students as “Spies and Lies.”
“Brad Westerfield was a wonderful scholar, teacher and mentor,” said Bruce Russett, the Dean Acheson Professor of International Relations at Yale and longtime colleague. “I believe he knew more about America's intelligence agencies than any other scholar or policy intellectual save for a few who worked near the top, under constraints of great secrecy. He shared much of his knowledge with students and colleagues, but much of it is lost with him. So, too, is his sound and humane judgment on all matters public and private.”
“Brad Westerfield was a sterling example of a threatened species in American higher education, namely, a teacher who considered the enlightenment of students to be the university professor's prime professional and moral responsibility,” said Joseph LaPalombara, Arnold Wolfers Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Management. “I believe it was this conviction that endowed Brad with a capacity to teach that few of us who were his colleagues were able to match. He brought great honor to Yale's department of political science.”
“Brad was a pace-setting scholar and intellectual in the truest senses of the word, meaning he was perennially interested in new ideas and the play of the mind,” said Robert Farris Thompson, Master of Timothy Dwight College (TD), where Professor Westerfield lived as a student and remained affiliated. “I was proud to know this world-class scholar as a Fellow of TD. Rich of mind and fluent in expression, he remains an inspiration to us all.”
In 1993, Yale College honored Westerfield with the first Byrnes-Sewall Award for effectiveness in stimulating undergraduate learning. In response to his award, Westerfield wrote to the donor of the prize, David Atkinson, “It is an immensely rewarding calling, endlessly rejuvenating, full of sheer fun, so much so that at times it seems almost self-indulgent, which makes the thanks of students especially reassuring.”
In 2003, Yale’s Alpha Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa bestowed on him the DeVane Medal in appreciation for his lifetime in teaching.
Professor Westerfield’s life in New Haven and career at Yale were interwoven. He was raised in academia, born March 7, 1928 to Mary Beatrice and Ray B. Westerfield, himself a Yale professor of economics. Brad was born in Rome where his parents were spending his father’s sabbatical.
During his childhood, encouraged by both his parents to love learning, Brad excelled at school and was given an early start. He began his studies at The Choate School at the age of 12 as what he himself termed “a precocious nerd.” In his second year at Choate he won the Highest Standing prize for top academic standing in the school, beating out students in the two forms above him. By his senior year, his prizes included not only that one, but also prizes in Mathematics, History, Latin and Debate. Westerfield graduated from Choate in June 1944, the same week as the Allied Forces landed at Normandy (D-Day).
At age 16, he entered Yale College, residing in Timothy Dwight, and later graduated with the Class of 1947. He earned his B.A. with highest honors in both Political Science and Philosophy and election to Phi Beta Kappa. During his undergraduate years, he was the recipient of the Thatcher, Ten Eyck and DeForest Prizes for public speaking, president of the Political Union, president of the Debating Association and editor-in-chief of the Senior Class Book. As the news announcer and commentator of the newly established radio station WYBC at Yale, Westerfield was the voice for momentous events of the climactic final year of World War II: the death of President Roosevelt, VE-Day and VJ-Day, and the surrenders of Germany and Japan in 1945.
Upon graduation from Yale, Westerfield entered Harvard University Graduate School of Public Administration (later renamed the John F. Kennedy School of Government), which had earned a reputation for political foreign policy study during the Post War era. He earned an M.A. in 1951 and a PhD in 1952. His fellow students and instructors included McGeorge Bundy, Henry Kissinger, Zbig Brzezinski and Sam Huntington. It was at Harvard that his lifelong interest in the coordination of espionage and other intelligence services of the State and Defense Departments was nurtured. He presented a major seminar paper on strategic intelligence for the United States and analyzed the lessons of World War II and the problems the CIA would be facing. He was the recipient of the Delancy Prize and was awarded the Sheldon Traveling Fellowship which took him to London, where he completed a thesis that would become his first book “Foreign Policy and Party Politics: Pearl Harbor to Korea,” published in 1955.
Westerfield joined the faculty of Harvard as an instructor in government, a position he held in 1952-1953 and 1954-1956. From 1953 to 1954, while on a Congressional Fellowship from the American Political Science Association, Westerfield served as a member of the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where newly elected Senator John F. Kennedy was a member, and as a Legislative Assistant to Representative Brooks Hays of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He was an assistant professor of political science at the University of Chicago from 1956 to 1957.
In 1957, he returned to Yale as a resident fellow and assistant professor of International Relations. He was promoted to associate professor in 1963; to full professor in 1965; department chairman, 1970-72; and in 1985 was honored with appointment to an endowed chair, as the Damon Wells Professor of International Studies in the Department of Political Science. While purely coincidental, this last honor was particularly meaningful to him, as Damon Wells had been a student of Westerfield’s.
In the late 1950s and 1960s, Westerfield was labeled a “hawkish conservative.” He urged the build-up of U.S. forces in the Far East and took hard positions on countering the expansion of Soviet power in the world. He termed his 1960s Cold War phase as “hawkishness with a human face”; among other things, he engaged Yale Chaplain and anti-war activist William Sloane Coffin in a debate on the subject of Vietnam. During the ensuing decade, the U.S. Information Service provided him with platforms across Western Europe and Asia for independent lecturing on American foreign policy, but as his own views evolved to a more dovish stance by the 1980s, he found himself increasingly at odds with Washington and these forums ceased. Professor Westerfield also served several terms on the Yale College Admissions Committee beginning in 1961. He was instrumental in breaking the Jewish quota and later pushing for an effort to attract greater numbers of African American students, and when the time came, for women to be admitted.
Professor Westerfield is survived by his wife Carolyn (Yale School of Architecture, M.C.P. 1959); son Leland (Yale College Class of 1990) and daughter Pamela Bingham (Yale College Class of 1985); granddaughters, Isabel, Serena, Avery and Lindsay; by his brother Putney (Yale College Class of 1951) and cousin Chaplin Barnes (Yale College 1962, Yale Law School 1965).
Memorial contributions may be made to the Carolyn & H. Bradford Westerfield Fellowship Fund at Yale, and mailed c/o John Loge, dean of Timothy Dwight College, Yale University Box 208238, New Haven, CT 06520. A memorial service for Professor H. Bradford Westerfield will be held at Yale University’s Battell Chapel on April 9.