Berry College professor and nationally renowned political scholar Peter Augustine Lawler died Tuesday.
“For 38 years, Peter has been a vital member of the Berry community and a legendary teacher, mentor and colleague,” said Berry College President Stephen Briggs. “A keen observer of human culture and the human condition, Peter will long be remembered for his teasing and provocative approach to teaching and writing. His passing reminds us of the fragility of this life in which, as Peter taught us, we are destined ‘to both wander and wonder.’”
Lawler was a prolific author and editor of more than 15 books, most recently “American Heresies and Higher Education.” His wide-ranging interests and his acute understanding led to his extraordinary national service and reputation, including his recent appointment as the editor of the distinguished conservative academic journal, Modern Age. His work also has appeared in The National Review, the Weekly Standard and The New Atlantis.
He was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve on the President’s Council on Bioethics, was a recipient of the Richard M. Weaver Prize for Scholarly Excellence and named the George Washington Distinguished Professor of the American Founding, The Society of the Cincinnati.
He has addressed audiences at countless colleges and entertained and provoked readers of his blogs while discussing such diverse subjects as popular culture (including current television shows such as “Girls”), the state of American higher education and the nation’s current president.
Lawler’s priorities, however, were not distracted by the national stage. “Few teachers have devoted so much time over so many years to their students,” said Tom Kennedy, dean of the Evans School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. “Peter could be counted on to entertain students even as he stretched them to engage and wrestle with the major texts of the Western tradition.” Lists of “Lawlerisms,” – classroom quips and offhand comments made in class – abound.
“Students had easy access to Peter – though not in his memorably messy office. He made time for them, drank many, many cups of coffee with them, listened to them, and formed them with their conversations. Countless students fell in love with political thought and the life of the mind through Peter’s teaching and mentorship.”
Lawler was a graduate of Allentown College and received his Ph.D. in government from the University of Virginia in 1978. He and his wife, Rita, moved to Rome in 1979 when he joined the Berry faculty. He taught courses in American politics, constitutional law and political philosophy, spanning ancient, modern, contemporary and American political philosophy with a special interest in, and appreciation for, the genius of Alexis de Tocqueville.