Hamilton Lugar School’s Russian And East European Institute Named For Founder Robert F. Byrnes

(BLOOMINGTON) – The Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies has received a generous gift from Shaun M. and Jill F. Byrnes, which names the Russian and East European Institute in honor of Robert F. Byrnes and establishes a distinguished scholar within the school. The institute is the oldest and largest area studies center at Indiana University.

Robert Byrnes on television in 1958
Robert F. Byrnes came to IU in 1956 as a Russian specialist and founded the Russian and East European Institute in 1958. Photo courtesy of IU Archives

Byrnes came to IU in 1956 as a Russian specialist and founded the institute now bearing his name in 1958. During his tenure, Byrnes helped shape the careers of Kremlinologists like former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and former U.S. Ambassador to Russia James F. Collins. The institute has held a designation as a U.S. Department of Education-funded Title VI National Resource Centers since 1958. It is one of 11 such centers at the Hamilton Lugar School.

“Robert Byrnes was one of our country’s most accomplished and influential scholars of Russia, Eastern Europe, and Russian-American relations,” IU President Michael A. McRobbie said. “At the height of the Cold War, he played a central role in the opening of academic exchanges with the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. He also worked with leaders at Indiana University to develop one of the world’s most renowned centers on Russian and East European area studies.

“Professor Byrnes always closed his letters and phone calls with the motto ‘onward and upward.’ This generous gift will ensure the institute that now bears his name will continue onward and upward, preparing future leaders in business, education, and public service to carry on his legacy and confront the critical issues facing this dynamic and strategically important region of the world.”

Byrnes also founded and led the Inter-University Committee on Travel Grants, which fostered an exchange of students and scholars between the United States and the Soviet Union, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria.

“Dr. Byrnes was a champion for scholarship and exchange between intellectuals from the United States and their counterparts in the Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe during the depths of the Cold War,” said former Ambassador Lee Feinstein, founding dean of the Hamilton Lugar School. “Under Professor Byrnes’ leadership, Indiana University emerged as one of the nation’s most important centers for Russian and East European Studies. This generous gift ensures that the tradition of excellence will continue and grow stronger.”

Each year, the institute honors Byrnes’ legacy by awarding the Robert F. Byrnes Memorial Fellowship to an outstanding graduate student. This new gift will support funding for the Robert F. Byrnes Distinguished Scholar, which will be awarded to a leading scholar or practitioner specializing in Russian or East European history, politics, and society. The recipient will also embody Byrnes’ values such as commitment to teaching, academic freedom, and dedication to student success.

This gift counts toward the $3 billion campaign, For All: The Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign.

For All: The Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign is taking place on all IU-administered campuses, including IU Bloomington, IUPUI, IU East, IU Kokomo, IU Northwest, IU South Bend. and IU Southeast. The campaign will conclude on September 30, 2020.

To learn more about the campaign, its impact, and how to participate, visit forall.iu.edu.

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