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Notice regarding James Bill

Provost Michael R. Halleran sent the following message to the campus community Nov. 23, 2015 - Ed.

Dear colleagues,

I write to share the news that James A. Bill, Professor of Government Emeritus and the first director of the Reves Center for International Studies, died on Saturday, November 21 at his home in Williamsburg.  He was 76 years old.

Jim Bill joined the faculty in 1987 as the Wendy and Emery Reves Professor of International Studies in the Department of Government and as the first director of the Wendy and Emery Reves Center for International Studies.  He came to William & Mary from the University of Texas, where he had enjoyed a distinguished career in the political science department.  He received his B.A. degree from Assumption College, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton.  Professor Bill served two terms on the prestigious Overseers’ Committee to Visit the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University.  He played a central role in the life of the College, particularly through his leadership of the Reves Center, and also as a valued member of the Government Department.  As Reves’ first director, he played a crucial role in molding it into the institution that remains today a center of curricular, research and residential excellence. 

For more than three decades, Professor Bill was one of the world’s most prominent scholars on Iran.  His book, The Eagle and the Lion (one of ten books he authored), remains one of the most influential books on American-Iranian relations, as well as a very controversial one.  Indeed, Professor Bill’s reputation for careful scholarship and a willingness to explore topics no matter how difficult or potentially unpopular the results might be for those in power, have marked him as not only a respected scholar but also as a man of great academic commitment and courage. Fittingly, one of his last books was a biography of George Ball, a man who applied many of Jim Bill’s strengths in the policy world.

His considerable scholarly and administrative successes make it easy to overlook Professor Bill’s contributions to the Government Department through his mentoring of students and faculty, his teaching, and his important role in attracting the “best and the brightest” new faculty to William & Mary.  He created the College’s offerings in Middle East politics and was instrumental in creating the Middle Eastern Interdisciplinary program.  He taught in the Government Department, even when he was Director at Reves, and on returning to the Department, he expanded his offerings.  Even though he taught most of his courses at 8 a.m. they always filled and always elicited extremely favorable student evaluations.

A reflection of his life at William & Mary can be found here: