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Donald Blackmer, professor emeritus of political science and longtime leader at MIT, dies at 91

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Donald Blackmer, professor emeritus of political science and longtime leader at MIT, dies at 91

Donald L. M. Blackmer, professor emeritus of political science at MIT, died on Aug. 14. He was 91.
A highly regarded scholar in international studies, he was also a longtime leader at MIT, serving variously as executive director of the Center for International Studies, head of the Department of Political Science, associate dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences (now the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences), director of the Program in Science, Technology, and Society, and head of MIT Foreign Languages and Literatures (now MIT Global Studies and Languages).
Blackmer received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard College, where he graduated magna cum laude in history and literature. He continued his studies at Harvard University, where he received a master’s in regional studies on the Soviet Union and a PhD in political science.
He began his career at MIT as executive director of, and eventually served as assistant director of, the Center for International Studies (CIS). The CIS was created in 1951 to aid the United States in its Cold War battle against the Soviet Union. Blackmer later chronicled the center’s beginnings in a fascinating book, “The MIT Center for International Studies: The Founding Years 1951 to 1969,” to mark the center’s 50th anniversary.
“Don was a fine scholar,” says Richard Samuels, director of CIS and Ford International Professor of Political Science. “He wrote a widely cited book on the international relations of the Italian Communist Party, and co-authored a book with Max Millikan on U.S. foreign aid. He also published on the French Communist Party and on the Soviet Union. But, on his own account, scholarship was not his primary calling. He was an institution builder. In 1956, he turned down a job offer to work as an assistant to McGeorge Bundy at Harvard, to come down-river to MIT to serve as a deputy to Max Millikan and Walt Rostow — the dynamic and powerful founders of the MIT Center for International Studies. As executive director of the young CIS, he made it possible for them, and those he helped them recruit, to light up the scholarly landscape.”

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