I write with sad news about our beloved colleague, mentor, and advocate for all things global, Patrick O’Meara. Patrick passed away yesterday at his home in Bloomington.
A scholar of African politics, Patrick was Indiana University’s first Vice President for International Affairs, where he built one of higher education’s most extensive networks of global cooperation.
Through his deft and diplomatic advocacy, Patrick cemented our university’s position as a leader in the advancement of area studies, advocating for enlightened national investment in the study of critical languages and regions under the Department of Education’s National Security Education Act, known in our corridors as “Title VI.” Patrick laid the groundwork for the success of our university and school as proud host to eleven Title VI National Resource and National Language Resource Centers—the most in the nation.
From his office on the fourth floor, Patrick was Ambassador-at-Large for the Hamilton Lugar School. He dispensed his unmatched knowledge of the campus to students, staff members, and faculty alike. Patrick offered astute counsel with generosity, discretion, and a gleam in his eye. He would sweeten his messages with curated chocolates and a Queen Elizabeth doll waving from behind his desk. If there was a bureaucratic bridge to be crossed, a conversation with Ambassador Patrick could imperceptibly resolve it. If a culturally suitable musical performance was needed for an event, Maestro Patrick eagerly took up the charge to assemble an operatic program.
Patrick played a behind-the-scenes role in attracting top talent to Bloomington. He sat on the annual review committee for Wells Scholars, meticulously evaluating applicants for these coveted awards. Through the lecture series that bears his name, he attracted leading figures on the global stage to Bloomington. If a VIP needed an introduction to the intellectual richness of our campus, Patrick would quietly arrange a personal visit to the Lilly Library, with hand-picked literary treasures displayed to match a visitor’s profile. When my proud Scottish wife, Elaine, first came to town, he arranged for the library to produce an original copy of the Scots-language poem Auld Lang Syne as a testimony to the university’s globality. He did much the same for esteemed visiting artists, dignitaries, and donors, from Maestro Krzysztof Penderecki to our Dean’s Advisory Council.
Of course, no one was more diligent or graceful in preparing and delivering an introduction than Patrick O’Meara. That is an experience that anyone so privileged will never forget.
Patrick loved our university and its people. That affection and understanding of the wonder and importance of what we do inspires us as we remember him, and mourn his loss.