Howard Wiarda ’61: From Dork to Foreign Policy Expert

When recalling his Delta Chi days, Howard is reminded of fun times, great friends, and a life-changing experience. His involvement taught him social graces, such as how to talk to women and how to get along with others. 

As a freshman, he won the “Wedge Award” for the worst faux pas of the week, followed by the annual “Dork Award”, a gallon jug filled with an ugly fermenting pumpkin, for winning the Wedge more than anyone else. Then, he dropped and broke the “Dork” in the main hall of West Quad. As the smell spread, he fled the scene. Needless to say, things have changed greatly for Howard since his first year in college. DX helped turn him from a shy, quiet, naïve guy into an educated and confident person. 

During his time at UM, his roommates included Charlie Waite ’59, Tom Michalski ’56, Barry Wood ’61 and Tom LeFevre ’60.

As many others would agree, Delta Chi gave Howard the sense of community that can be lost in a big, impersonal university. Some of his best, lifelong friends were found there, and he still keeps in touch with many of his brothers today, such as Barry Wood, Keith Hellems ’62, Dave Falconer ’62, Howard Gandelot ’64, Frank Morrey ’64 and Fred Koester ’61.

Howard’s fondest memories are the Friday night beer parties, Saturday night dances, serenading the women at various sororities, going to football games, and bonding with the brothers and his pledge class.

After his undergraduate studies were over and he had earned a B.A. in history, he attended graduate school and received an M.A. in history, a Ph.D. in political science, and an M.S. in national security studies. 

Some of his success can be attributed to help he received at Michigan. He had a dean/academic adviser at Michigan, James Robertson, who shaped him up, got him through a rough patch, and set him on the path that led to his successful career. Post-graduation, the first job he accepted was as an assistant professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts.

UMass was his place of work from 1965 until 1979, where he went on to become both an associate and full professor during this time. From there, he was a senior scholar in the Center of International Affairs at Harvard from 1979 until 1991. In 1991, he became a professor of national security at the National War College, which he continued until 1996. Also, during 1981-1988, he was a senior scholar and foreign policy director at the American Enterprise Institute. 

In 1992, he accepted a position as a senior scholar at the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) until 2013. Also, during this time, he was a public scholar at Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars from 2000 until 2011. In 2003, he accepted his current position of Dean Rusk Professor of International Relations and Founding Head, Department of International Affairs at the University of Georgia.

Over the years, he has lived in a variety of locations, some close by and some a little farther away. Off and on from 1965 until 2003, his primary home was Amherst, MA, although he also sporadically lived in Columbus, OH, from 1969 until 1970 and Cambridge, MA, between 1979 and 1991. Since 1980, he has had a home in Washington, D.C. He also has a home in Athens, GA. His more exotic travels have taken him to Brazil; the Dominican Republic; Lisbon, Portugal; Geneva, Switzerland; Vienna, Austria; Budapest, Hungary; and Hong Kong.               

Howard is happily married to Dr. Ieda Siqueira Wiarda, who had a successful 25-year career at the Library of Congress and a teaching career at UMass and the University of Georgia. They had three children and six grandchildren.

Their son, Howard E., graduated from UM in 1991 and has a successful career as an interventional radiologist. Ann, his wife, is an ophthalmologist, and they have two children. Kristy, their daughter, is a social worker who married USMC Lt. Col. James Williams, and together they have a son attending Duke. Last, but certainly not least, Howard and Iêda’s son Jonathan graduated from UM in 1996 and is now a teacher/professor. Karen, his wife, is a cardiologist and a UM grad as well, and they have two children.

In his free time, Howard greatly enjoys traveling, writing, and being a consultant, policy adviser, and an editor. He also likes volunteering at his local church.

Howard’s biggest success in life can’t be narrowed down to just one. He is proud of his accomplishments at the young age of 25 as he was the youngest assistant, associate, and full professor in the university. His marriage and family are also very important to him and is an area where he feels very fortunate and successful. Some of his other proudest achievements include a 50-year teaching/research career at the university level, 35 years in a Washington think tank; two endowed chairs, UMass & University of Georgia; and two presidential commissions. 

He has lived, worked in or visited 106 countries; written over 100 books & monographs on foreign policy, international relations, comparative pols and travel; was the founding head at the Department of International Affairs, University of Georgia; served as the director of foreign programs, various universities and think tanks; and was an advisor on foreign policy to four American presidencies.

To the younger active members, he advises, “Work hard, study hard, play hard, persevere; be honest, especially with yourself. Find that field, job or career that enables you to match up your skills with your dreams”.

Fifty years from now, he wants people to remember that, no matter what, he tried his best — not without failures along the way — to be a good husband, a good father, a good friend, a solid colleague, and a good person.