The walls of professor Bernard Reich’s office were covered in nails from paintings and photographs that once gave the white surface splashes of color.
The room’s contents were limited to boxes filled with old books, an empty mini fridge and a line of his grandchildren’s photographs. After 47 years teaching political science and international affairs courses, the professor sat in his cleared-out office, grading his last stack of assignments.
Reich, who moved up the ranks from assistant professor to chairing the political science department for nine years, admitted he is not feeling very sentimental in his final days at GW, but added that he does expect to miss the classroom. As the retiring professor prepares for his exit, he looks forward to maintaining relationships formed throughout his tenure, some with students from up to 25 years ago.
“You lose the office and the salary, but you don’t lose the connection,” Reich said.
Reich began teaching straight out of graduate school, where a job as a research assistant sparked an interest in Middle Eastern politics – one that would eventually become the focus of his career.
He has taught numerous political science and international affairs courses on topics including the Arab-Israeli conflict, oil politics and comparative politics of the Middle East.
The retiring professor has also written and contributed to 37 books and monographs, and has lectured at more than 60 universities and research institutes. He said he has consistently encouraged students to get involved in research and writing and to apply classroom knowledge to the outside world.
“All this has to come together,” he said. “If you just sit behind a desk and read papers, it doesn’t quite work.”
Reich served as a consultant and course chairperson at the Department of State, a member of various think tanks including the Middle East Institute’s Board of Governors and a guest lecturer at institutions like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“It all interacts,” Reich said. “When I stand in front of 30 guys who’ve just been out in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting the war in one way or another, and I come back here and we talk about Iraq and Afghanistan, I have new insights and new information of what goes on.”
Professor Paul Wahlbeck, chair of the political science department, said Reich’s accomplishments as a professor and as a scholar make him an irreplaceable member of staff.
“His course offerings have been among the most sought after,” Wahlbeck said in an email. “He has seen GW change around him, and his experience in guiding the department through those changes has been valuable.”
He said Reich’s insight and advice will be missed.
Though Reich plans to continue his research on Middle Eastern politics outside of GW, he said his time at the University has provided experiences and connections he could not have gained elsewhere. He looks forward to spending more time with his family and loved ones, but feels proud of everything he has accomplished.
“If I had to do it all over again, yes I’d be here,” Reich said. “It sounds almost like a cliché, but if I didn’t think that was the case, I would not be here.”