Jay Rickard Judson Distinguished Professor
University of North Carolina
Don Raleigh recieved his Ph.D. at Indiana University, then taught at the
University of Hawaii for more than nine years before accepting an appointment
at UNC-Chapel Hill, where he has taught since 1988. In honor of his dissertation advisor, Knox graduate Alexander Rabinowitch '56, Raleigh published a festschrift, Russia's Century of Revolution: Parties, People, Places. Studies Presented in Honor of Alexander Rabinowitch. His book, Soviet Baby Boomers, was inspired at Knox Commencement and was recently shortlisted for the Pushkin House Russian Book Prize.
How did your Knox education help you get where you are now in your career?
At Knox, I majored in Russian Area Studies, a demanding field that comprised half of my coursework at the college. I took the equivalent of a minor field in history, wrote an honors thesis chaired by a political scientist, and spent the last two trimesters of my senior year at Leningrad University. This intense, remarkably interdisciplinary undergraduate experience prepared me well for my career.
Describe a Knox moment or professor who impacted your life?
I dedicated one of the books I've authored to Momcilo Rosic, who taught me Russian and much more. His personal story -- one of survival, adaptability, resilience, gratitude, and optimism -- offered lessons that I came to appreciate only much later in life. An enthusiastic teacher who knew how to use humor to motivate his charges, Momcilo (whom his colleagues called Mike) greatly valued the ironies embedded in the human condition and shared his observations on them. I likewise owe a great deal to historian Steven Bailey's captivating lectures and policy of having his students write take-home exams -- 10-page analytical essays -- instead of bluebook exams.
Articulate the value of a liberal arts education?
I would argue that the value of a liberal arts education is so obvious that attempting to justify it serves only to detract from its worth. That said, I recall what in "my days" we called the Knox Idea, or what a Knox education attempted to offer those who sought it. Those values, skills, and dispositions seem even timelier in today's post-industrial world.
What career advice would you give to current students?
The older I get, the more I realize that I really don't know what's best for someone else. That said, I would encourage Knox students to follow their hearts, to dream big, and to chase after what interests them most rather than trying to outguess future job markets, to please family, or to do what's safe and practical. Keep passion in your life.