Obituary: Howard J. Wiarda, Political Science Professor Emeritus

Howard Wiarda
Howard Wiarda

Howard J. Wiarda, 75, of Athens, Ga., professor emeritus and formerly the Leonard J. Horowitz Professor of Iberian and Latin American Studies, died Sept. 12.

He joined the political science department in the fall of 1965 and retired in 2003 to become the founding head of the department of international affairs at the University of Georgia and the Dean Rusk Professor of International Relations. 

Wiarda was a world-class scholar and major figure in the study of comparative politics and foreign policy. He was a popular undergraduate and graduate teacher, winning accolades as a teacher and a mentor to countless undergraduate and graduate students as well as junior faculty.

Born in Grosse Pointe, Mich., he grew up in Grand Rapids and received his bachelor’s degree in history and political science at the University of Michigan in 1961 where he was editor of the student newspaper. He earned his doctorate in political science at the University of Florida in 1965.   

Wiarda came to UMass Amherst directly from graduate school. He began as an assistant professor and quickly rose through the ranks to become a full professor at 33 (a record unbroken for the department) and was one of the youngest full professors in the history of the university.

While here, he served as editor of Polity. He was also the director of the Center for Latin American Studies and chairman of the University’s Council for International Studies.   

He was a visiting scholar/research associate at the Center for International Affairs at Harvard University (1979-81, 1984-86, 1988-91), where he also directed the faculty comparative politics seminar. From 1981-87 he was resident scholar and founding director of the Center for Hemispheric Studies at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research in Washington. He divided his time between Washington, Cambridge and Amherst, regularly teaching undergraduate and graduate courses for the political science department and directing doctoral dissertations.

He served as lead consultant (1983-84) to the National Bipartisan (Kissinger) Commission on Central America and was Thorton D. Hooper Fellow in International Security Affairs (1987-88) at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. He joined the Center for Strategic and International Studies in 1992, becoming a senior associate. In 2000 he was appointed public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

He served by appointment of the president of the United States on the Presidential Task Force on Project Economic Justice. He was a consultant and adviser to four presidents and a variety of private foundations, business firms and agencies of the federal government, including the Department of Defense, the National Defense University and the Center for Hemispheric Studies.

Wiarda received grants from numerous foundations and programs including the Rockefeller Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Fulbright Program (four awards), the Social Science Research Council, American Philosophical Society, the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Institutes of Health, Pew Foundation and the Twentieth Century Fund. He was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. In 1988 he served on Vice President George H.W. Bush’s foreign policy advisory team. In 2012 he was inducted into the Order of Columbus by President Leonel Fernández of the Dominican Republic, his former student at UMass Amherst, for a “lifetime of service to and writing about the Dominican Republic.”

Wiarda was the author and/or editor of more than 100 books and the author of more than 300 scholarly articles, book chapters, op-eds and congressional testimony. Among his many books are “The Dominican Republic: Nation in Transition,” “Politics in Iberia: The Political Systems of Spain and Portugal,” “Corporatism and Comparative Politics,” “The Soul of Latin America,” and “Divided America on the World Stage: Broken Government and Foreign Policy.”  He also was co-author and editor with Harvey F. Kline (a former member of the political science department) of the leading textbook “Latin American Politics and Development,” now in its eighth edition).

Survivors include his wife of 51 years, Ieda Siqueira Wiarda, also a professional political scientist who taught at UMass Amherst; daughter Kristy Lynn Williams and husband James Williams; sons Howard Elvindo Wiarda and wife Ann B. Wiarda and Jonathan Siqueira Wiarda and wife Karen P. Wiarda; five grandchildren and many nieces and nephews, including Paul Siqueira, a UMass Amherst professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Funeral services will be Friday, Sept. 18 at 1 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Athens. Interment will follow at Athens Memory Garden.