Release Date: May 12, 2006
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Longtime University at Buffalo faculty member Claude E. Welch, Jr., has been named the recipient of the first Lifetime Achievement Award presented by TIAA-CREF, the leading provider of retirement services in the academic, research, medical and cultural fields.
Welch received the SUNY-wide award, as well as a $10,000 grant from the SUNY Research Foundation, at the Research Foundation's annual research and scholarship dinner held on May 3 in Albany. A tribute video was screened as part of the award presentation.
Uday Sukhatme, dean of the UB College of Arts and Sciences, says that when the request came to nominate a faculty member for the TIAA-CREF award, which was established to recognize individuals who "serve those who serve others for the greater good," Welch was the obvious choice.
"He was the first person whose name came to mind," says Sukhatme. Sukhatme notes that there are many UB faculty members who have impeccable scholarly credentials. But couple that with strong teaching and community service, and Welch, SUNY Distinguished Service Professor in the UB Department of Political Science, "was the natural choice" to be UB's nominee for the award, he says. "He goes beyond the call of duty," Sukhatme says of Welch, calling him "the consummate university citizen."
Welch attributes his commitment to academics and service to the influence of his parents. His father, a noted surgeon, held high academic standards, and felt it was important "to go beyond the bedside to medical leadership," says Welch, citing his father's unsuccessful insurgent campaign for the presidency of the American Medical Association. "He wanted the AMA to give more attention to public and preventive health, along the lines Massachusetts has recently followed," he says. His mother, who during the Depression gave up hopes of a career as a doctor to pursue a nursing career, was "similarly publicly inclined," Welch says.
He earned a bachelor's degree in government from Harvard University and a doctorate from Oxford University with the intention of pursuing a career in public service. Upon receiving his doctorate in 1964, Welch says he had job offers from UB and the U.S. State Department. Married and the father of two young children at the time, the prospect of a career in the Foreign Service was not as appealing as a faculty position, he says.
As a young faculty member, Welch was named to a faculty advisory committee by new UB President Martin Meyerson, who, Welch recalls, was "deliberately shaking things up." His service on the committee "caught the attention of Meyerson and others," and he was named dean of the Division of Undergraduate Studies. He served in that position from 1967-70 and then over the years held a series of administrative posts, including associate vice president for academic affairs, acting vice president for academic affairs and chair of the political science department while continuing to teach and publish. He currently serves as co-director of the Human Rights Center in the UB Law School.
During his early years at UB, Welch recalls, he "straddled administration and scholarship." But he earned tenure in three years, and was named a full professor in 1972. He was promoted to SUNY Distinguished Service Professor, the highest rank in the SUNY system, in 1989.
The past 40 years have been prolific ones for Welch, in terms of both scholarship and service.
He's one of the most respected authorities in the world in the area of human rights and human rights organizations -- particularly in Africa -- and on the political role of armed forces. He has published 13 books, chapters in more than 35 other books and more than 40 articles in academic journals. His most recent book, "Economic Human Rights in Canada and the United States" (University of Pennsylvania Press) was published this year.
He already is hard at work on his next book, tentatively titled "Protecting Human Rights Globally: Roles and Strategies of International NGOs." It examines the persistence of deep-rooted issues, and in particular looks at how domestic and international NGOs (non-governmental organizations) have linked their efforts. These problems include contemporary forms of slavery, such as widow inheritance and debt bondage, looking at the venerable British group Anti-Slavery International; racism (the World Council of Churches), descent-based discrimination such as caste (the International Dalit Solidarity Network); and the effectiveness of international tribunals in counteracting acts of genocide and crimes against humanity (World Federalist Movement/Coalition for an International Criminal Court).
Welch is on the board of Human Rights Watch/Africa, an international human rights monitoring group, and has helped conduct investigations and reports that have improved human rights in Africa. He's also been a frequent consultant for U.S. government agencies such as the African Center for Strategic Studies and the U.S. Army and Staff College, in addition to such private groups as the MacArthur Foundation and the Asia Foundation on democratization, human rights and civil-military relations.
Welch notes that some of his "most fruitful work" has been accomplished in conjunction with the Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy in the UB Law School. The center, he points out, provided resources for several of his books; in fact, his most recent book on economic human rights in Canada was a direct result of a conference Welch organized through the Baldy Center with major financial assistance from it, the Canadian Embassy and the UB Canadian-American Studies Committee.
"My research agenda could not have reached the level of output that it has without the support I've received from the Baldy Center," he says.
A popular teacher, Welch has received numerous awards for his work with students, among them the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching, a Lisa Hertel Award for Teaching from the Department of Political Science and the Milton Plesur Excellence in Teaching Award from the Student Association. He has served on nearly 100 doctoral dissertation committees, and has taught the World Civilizations since 1500 courses to undergraduates, as well as advanced courses to political science majors and interdisciplinary seminars to law students and graduate students from several disciplines.
Welch also has been active in faculty governance, serving two terms as chair of the Faculty Senate, and founding several key senate committees, among them Academic Planning, Budget Priorities, Student Life, and Teaching and Learning. He currently serves as a senator representing the College of Arts and Sciences.
Welch is married to Jeannette Ludwig, associate professor in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures. He praised Ludwig, who, he says, "took on a ready-made house with four kids" after the death of his first wife, Nancy Welch. An annual award for UB residential students has been established in Nancy Welch's name.
In his spare time, Welch enjoys reading biographies, science-related books and historical fiction -- his favorite authors are Simon Winchester and David McCullough -- and doing crossword puzzles. He and Ludwig spend time at their condominium in Chautauqua, and he often cycles to campus.
Welch downplays any talk of retirement, but does acknowledge he may slow down "in terms of home," possibly downsizing from the large house in Snyder where he raised his family.