An Appreciation of Alan Luxenberg

The formidable Harvey Sicherman, who served as chief of the Foreign Policy Research Institute longer even than its storied founder Robert Strausz-Hupé, liked to tell the story of how he recruited Walter McDougall to affiliate with the Institute three decades ago. Harvey allegedly regaled me with brandy and cigars and tales both wise and witty regarding his apprenticeship under Strausz-Hupé and subsequent career as a speech writer for Secretaries of State Alexander Haig, George Shultz, and James Baker. Having softened me up, Harvey reeled in his fish with the result that I began my own long career as a Senior Fellow, editor of Orbis: A Journal of World Affairs, co-director of the History Institute and the Center for the Study of America and the West, and finally as Director of Research. Only his memory was (as they say in diplomatic circles) inexact. What really seduced this history professor, newly arrived at the University of Pennsylvania in 1988-89, to join the FPRI were the sober, deferential, and ultimately irresistible blandishments of Harvey’s second-in-command, Alan Luxenberg. Since then, I have never regretted departing the University of California and Berkeley for the University of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, and a principal reason for that has been the activities, opportunities, and colleagues I discovered through the FPRI.

How many people are really in control of their lives? Looking back on my own 73 years, I am amazed and humbled to confess that nearly all the key turning points in my own have been accidental. I did not choose where to apply for college—I simply followed my older brothers to Amherst. I did not choose to major in history—I simply never decided to do anything else. I did not choose to serve in the army during the Vietnam War. Nor did I exactly choose to enroll in graduate school inasmuch as no “union card” bestows less job security than a history PhD. Upon receiving that degree, I seemed wildly fortunate to catch on with the faculty at U.C. Berkeley only to be targeted by a left-wing faction and subjected to a nine-year-long struggle for tenure. Nor did I plan on being recruited for a chaired professorship at Penn or the serendipitous expansion of my teaching and research fields from European and Cold War diplomacy to the Pacific Rim and U.S. history, the fruits of which turned out to be five more fat books. I simply conclude that peoples’ biographies—like history itself—just happen.

Alan Luxenberg doubtless feels likewise. A native of Long Island, he applied to the University of Pennsylvania never suspecting that Philadelphia would become his home for nearly fifty years. Nor did he intend to specialize in foreign policy because he graduated in 1976 with a major in psychology. Nor did that course of study impart the “people skills” for which he was later renowned because “Penn specialized in experimental rather than clinical psychology: they studied rats, not people.” Nor did Alan suspect that the part-time job as assistant librarian for which he applied his senior year would elevate him to the presidency of the FPRI.

That institution had been founded in 1955 by a group of Penn professors and quickly earned a national reputation due to the energy, intelligence, and promotional skills of the suave Strausz-Hupé. An Austrian emigré who arrived in America in the 1920s, he had won acclaim as a geopolitician during World War II, took a PhD from Penn in 1946, and joined its faculty. His interdisciplinary approach stressed the importance of understanding other countries through history, geography, economics, social structure, language, and culture, rather than through abstract, universal theories derived from social science. That broad-minded, humanist, and historical approach is celebrated to this day by such esteemed FPRI scholars as James Kurth, Robert Kaplan, and Michael Doran.

The Institute received funding during its early years from the Smith Richardson Foundation, but otherwise was a creature of Penn and especially its Department of Political Science. The honeymoon could not last long. Strausz-Hupé had imagined the FPRI to be a hawkish Cold War alternative to the Council on Foreign Relations. He was critical of the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations alike and publicly supported Barry Goldwater in 1964. Few of his colleagues at Penn shared his politics, and their tolerance for his Institute eroded as the Vietnam War escalated and FPRI scholars obtained much of their funding from classified government sources. To make matters worse, quantitative behavioralists took control of the Political Science Department and anathematized those who did qualitative work. When Richard Nixon became president in 1969 and asked Strausz-Hupé to join his administration, he stepped down as director and began a new career as ambassador.[1] His successor William Kintner, who was a gruff career military officer-turned-professor, was hardly the one to mend fences. The Institute and the university agreed to sever their ties and the FPRI moved off campus.

The short-term result was steady decline. As the Vietnam War wound down so did the government research contracts. Kintner also initiated an unwise collaboration when he appointed Robert Pfalzgraff his deputy director because the latter grew accustomed to being the boss during Kintner’s two-year service as ambassador to Thailand. Upon his return, the two reached an uneasy compromise: Kintner would assume a new post as president of the FPRI, while Pfalzgraff would serve as director. But the duumvirate predictably failed, whereupon Pfalzgraff departed for the Fletcher School taking his large grant with him. The Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis he founded there was, for a few years at least, larger than the FPRI.

It thus appeared that Luxenberg had signed on to a sinking ship. The Institute had not only dispensed with its institutional sponsor, but it also lacked an endowment, reliable sources of grant money, and competent leadership. But over the years that followed, Alan helped steady the ship and quietly made himself indispensable. In just five years, he advanced to the posts of research librarian, circulation manager of Orbis, assistant editor, security officer, assistant for fund-raising and operations, and finally associate director for development—all in return for compensation that was modest at best. Why did he stick it out? First, because he was pursuing graduate work in history at Temple University, where he studied with some fine scholars including Richard Immerman, Russell Weigley, and for a time David Alan Rosenberg. As a part-time student, however, he needed twelve years to finish his course work and a Master’s thesis on Eisenhower and the Cuban revolution. Second, because his attempts to move on from the FPRI were repeatedly thwarted. At Temple, he passed his PhD oral exams, but never finished his dissertation because of the tragic illness and eventual death of his first wife. He considered accepting a position with the National Endowment for Democracy, but the salary was too low and the cost of living in Washington too high. He thought about a diplomatic career and passed the Foreign Service exam, but failed the day-long oral assessment because he was “insufficiently flexible” when asked to dispense foreign aid. In other words, he was deemed too scrupulous for government work!

As a result, Luxenberg kept on devoting his time and talent to the FPRI, at first out of inertia and lack of a better alternative, but in the longer run out of an ethic of service, a loyalty, and eventually something like love. One object of his admiration was Strausz-Hupé himself. By 1981, with the inauguration of Jimmy Carter, his diplomatic missions had come to an end, so the ambassador began again to frequent the Institute. Luxenberg got to know him and devoured his books and articles. When the Penn alumni association asked Alan to approach the ambassador about giving a public lecture in 1979, he was dazzled to watch Strausz-Hupé speak without notes for an hour and receive a standing ovation. But what Luxenberg admired most of all was the institution itself, as visiting scholar Howard Wiarda later attested: “Lux was not only a fixture at the FPRI, but a gem of a fellow and the person who kept the Institute on track and running on a daily basis. . . . He was the only administrator there all day and every day. Without him, FPRI would not function. . . . Such dedication and commitment, especially since FPRI salaries are not high, are very hard to find in any institution.” Just as important as his administration was his tactful personality. The fellows and staff members were in most cases alpha males—strong willed if not acerbic personalities—living in an environment that was intellectually and financially insecure. Alan was their peacemaker. “We would see him trudging down the hallway,” Wiarda recalled, “putting out the occasional brushfire or serving as intermediary. . . . Lux handled these talks well and even managed to smooth some ruffled feathers in the process.”[2]

What is more, “the process” did not end with Pfalzgraff’s departure because Alan Ned Sabrosky, appointed director in 1981, proved to be worse. He stepped down after a year, having nearly driven the Institute bankrupt. In 1982, Kintner retired as president. In 1983, Nils H. Wessell became director, but failed to raise the Institute’s profile or attract new grant money. He departed in 1985 for a job with the U.S. Information Agency. “This was not a happy time at FPRI,” recorded Wiarda in a classical understatement. All that remained of the FPRI besides its small office staff was Alan and such long-suffering scholars as Vladimir Tismaneanu, Michael Radu, Adam Garfinkle, and John Maurer. They hoped a new president might turn things around.

He did. The trustees persuaded Marvin Wachman to assume the presidency in 1983, and it is no exaggeration to say that he saved the FPRI. The son of Russian Jewish immigrants, he had grown up in Milwaukee, graduated from Northwestern University, took a PhD in history from the University of Illinois, and taught at Colgate University for fourteen years. But administration was his surpassing talent and humanitarianism his true calling in life. In 1961, he agreed to become president of Lincoln University and nursed the troubled, historically black school back to health. Then, Temple University made him its vice president in 1969 and president in 1973. Wachman’s personality glowed. He seemed to be on a first name basis with everyone who was anyone in Philadelphia’s intellectual, social, business, and journalistic worlds. He could work a room like a politician, winning the admiration of all and the enmity of none. Above all, he never grew ruffled no matter the adversity confronting him. Not surprisingly, Wachman became a role model and mentor for Luxenberg, who worked with him to restore the finances of FPRI and to oversee the whole think tank when he became associate director in 1987.

It was Wachman who recruited Daniel Pipes, son of celebrated Harvard Professor (and Ronald Reagan’s advisor on Russian affairs) Richard Pipes, to become director in 1986. The choice was excellent, at least initially. Pipes had lots of good ideas and scored large grants from the Bradley and Olin Foundations. As he explained to the staff, the FPRI operated at a big disadvantage by comparison to the American Enterprise Institute, Brookings Institution, Center for Strategic and International Studies, or the Heritage Foundation. Unlike them, the FPRI was small, relatively poor, based in Philadelphia, and invisible, which is to say its scholars got very little media exposure. Hence, Pipes explained, they should not try to compete for influence with policymakers in Washington, D.C., but instead seek to influence those who did have access to them. Pipes’ own specialty was the Middle East, but he also promoted other projects, especially Tismaneanu’s prescient work on the “coming crisis of Communism.” The FPRI even sponsored a major conference in 1987 where scholars predicted the imminent collapse of the Soviet bloc.

That happened, of course, in the annus mirabilis 1989, which happened also to be year Wachman retired. Alas, changes at the top once again precipitated a crisis. The end of the Cold War meant that funding for foreign policy think tanks plummeted, causing Pipes in turn to narrow his focus on the Middle East. The trustees leaned on him to broaden the research agenda, but he resisted. For instance, the decision by Martha Brill Olcott, a lifelong expert on Kazakhstan, to affiliate with the FPRI should have been a piece of good luck because the newly independent Central Asian republics did attract grant money after the Cold War. But Pipes could not abide her and soon drove her away. His relationships with the permanent scholars deteriorated as well. Radu, whose knowledge of radical and terrorist movements worldwide was encyclopedic, and Maurer, an up-and-coming student of naval strategy, grew especially disaffected. Once again, Luxenberg’s office diplomacy contained the damage. But as it was, gloom pervaded Ralston House, the old geriatric facility on Chestnut Street which housed the FPRI. The selection of the new president, Harvey Sicherman, brought matters to a head. The trustees’ plan was for Pipes to step down as director, but remain as head of the Middle East Council. But dual management failed again. The personalities, interests, and styles of Pipes and Sicherman could not have differed more, so Pipes (like Pfalzgraff before him) departed from the FPRI taking his council and grant with him.

Luxenberg, now deputy director, had been with the Institute sixteen years and suffered through all its dark nights and false dawns. This time, however, the dawn was spectacular. First, the trustees streamlined administration by naming a president who would serve as chief executive, plus a vice president—Alan, of course—who had been serving as chief operating officer for years. Those appointments ensured that the FPRI would function efficiently, cheerfully, and within budget far into the future. Although anyone who happened to drop by Luxenberg’s tiny office next door to Harvey’s elegant one would never have guessed it. Books, journals, and documents of all sorts were stacked—seemingly at random—on every surface and shelf and most of the floor. But the mare’s nest was not evidence of a scattered mind so much as proof of a supremely organized mind that was able to cope with such chaos, not to mention indicative of a humble personality that cared not a whit for appearances.

During that transition, I became acquainted with the FPRI. I had made the difficult decision to leave a tenured faculty position at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1988 and accept a chair at Penn that included directorship of its undergraduate program in International Relations. Luxenberg sought me out during my first months at Penn, briefed me about the FPRI, and evidently praised my Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age (perhaps because I in turn had high praise for Eisenhower). But I do not recall any particular meetings, so low-key were his demarches. I had even forgotten that Alan was the one who suggested I submit a long article on Russian foreign policy for publication in Orbis.[3] Pipes, still editor at the time, rejected it. When Alan asked why, Pipes replied curtly: “The writing was stained glass. We prefer plate glass.” By which he meant that he preferred style that was simple, clear, and easily intelligible by non-academics. That was ironic since he had added me to his Board of Editors in 1989.

By 1993, however, Pipes had departed, leaving Sicherman solely in charge of presiding at FPRI events—something at which the witty, sophisticated, and well-connected Washington veteran excelled—and Luxenberg in charge of program management. It would be hard to imagine a more complementary team. When Alan first joined the FPRI staff in 1976, Harvey was already there, working as an assistant to General Alexander Haig. Their first meeting was memorable. Upon learning his new junior colleague was Jewish, Harvey regaled Alan—apropos of nothing in particular—with “an hour-long impromptu, but very erudite and entertaining. lecture on Passover. I knew then that this was a very unusual place.” Just imagine Sicherman, who preened like a Victorian gentleman in a white, three-piece suit, watch fob, and bowler hat, channeling his inner Orthodox rabbi![4]

As Alan grew settled in during the 1970s, Sicherman partnered with Adam Garfinkle to co-author Haig’s influential book The Three Percent Solution (and the Future of NATO), and when Ronald Reagan named Haig his first secretary of state in 1981, Harvey accompanied him to Foggy Bottom. He went on to serve as a speech writer and adviser to no less than three Republican secretaries of state over a dozen years and played an important, behind-the-scenes role in the reunification of Germany. Bill Clinton’s electoral victory, however, meant Harvey was out of a job, which is when the FPRI trustees wisely scooped him up.

The Sicherman-Luxenberg leadership team raised morale overnight and inaugurated a slew of positive changes, not least the Institute’s relocation from dreary Ralston House to an elegant art-deco high-rise building in Center City. Harvey, Alan, and the leaders of the new programs they established also renewed the FPRI’s old ties to the faculty at Penn and added a host of new fellows from other universities in the greater Delaware Valley. Of course, all that took a few years during which the budget crunch he inherited obliged Sicherman to make “his hardest decision,” which was to let Adam Garfinkle go. He was (in Wiarda’s description) a brilliant intellectual with “a razor-sharp mind, a sharp tongue, well-read, witty, an original thinker,” and author of many works, including the influential Friendly Tyrants: An American Dilemma (1991). But it turned out well for all parties because Garfinkle soon became a prominent Washington editor and later a speech writer for Colin Powell. Otherwise, the strategy adopted by Harvey and Alan was to turn the FPRI’s prior weakness, which was a paucity of scholars due to its lack of funding, into a strength by recruiting a host of diverse scholars, mostly university professors, to participate in FPRI projects for modest honoraria.

Sicherman and Luxenberg also transformed the flagship publication, Orbis: A Journal of World Affairs, when they made the decision to out-source its tedious and unremunerative production to a commercial publishing firm in exchange for a fixed annual fee. Alan also talked Sicherman into asking me to edit Orbis and I threw myself into the job of raising the journal’s reputation and visibility. But the most important achievement in which Luxenberg played the principal role was probably the Institute’s turn toward public education, especially in history. The FPRI had begun to sponsor experimental weekend academies during which panels of mostly eloquent experts would lecture on a common theme to audiences of eager secondary school teachers. Their phenomenal success encouraged Luxenberg to seek new funding not narrowly tied to foreign policy and he was rewarded with a $100,000 grants from the Annenberg Foundation and Japan’s Foundation’s Center for Global Partnership, as well as the Donner Foundation and U.S. Institute of Peace.

Luxenberg, sensing that history and education were keys to the FPRI’s post-Cold War reinvention, asked me to write an article on the controversial National History Standards that had just appeared. When it was published in the prominent journal Commentary, something unprecedented occurred: The Olin Foundation approached the FPRI asking “how can we help?” Thus began the now legendary History Institute for Teachers whose weekend extravaganzas soon went national—drawing on teachers from nearly all states and meeting in all sorts of cities and venues—and now number almost fifty. Two “hall of fame” high school teachers, Paul Dickler and James Sanzare, assisted at most (in Paul’s case all) of these weekends. The First Division Museum on Colonel Robert McCormick’s Cantigny estate in Wheaton, Illinois, has alone hosted thirteen weekends on U.S. military history featuring panels of distinguished speakers assembled by Michael Noonan, the director of FPRI’s National Security Program. This program, since renamed the Madeleine and W. W. Keen Butcher History Institute for Teachers, is a major pedagogical innovation with which I have been proud to associate.

Alan Luxenberg is a lifelong learner, the sure trait of a humble person. He has learned both what to do and what not to do during his forty years of relationships with—and observations of—scholars, donors, staff, and especially leaders. I suspect he learned the most from Wachman and Sicherman, but he admired no one more than he did Strausz-Hupé. Hence, I was honored and privately pleased to be invited to deliver the keynote address at the ambassador’s 95th birthday celebration at the Union League Club in March 1998. I began with a good-natured jibe: “Thank you, Harvey. As always, you have crafted an introduction that is 40 percent wit, 40 percent facts, and 20 percent rubbish.” He had claimed I stood in relation to the ambassador as the prophet Elisha did to Elijah! Then, I turned serious:

I am inadequate to the task laid on me this evening, which is to celebrate a man who was both a thinker and doer, scholar and teacher, author and editor, intellectual and intellectual impresario, administrator, statesman, and visionary, whose careers span the century. Consider that for Strausz-Hupé to be assessed by a mere 51-year old is tantamount to my being honored by a seven year old.

“I’m reminded of one of the last lectures given by the late Robertson Davies. Introducing a fellow Canadian novelist, he observed that the age of an author is of no consequence: If they are any good, they were born old and wise. Perhaps the Ambassador will scoff at the notion, but it seems to us youngsters that he was indeed born old and wise. Suffice to say that the first patriotic anthem he learned as a child was this (sung to the tune of ‘Deutschland über alles’:

Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser, unser’n guten Kaiser Franz

            (God save Francis the Emperor, our good Emperor Francis)

             Hoch als Herrscher, Hoch als Weiser, steht er in des Rühmes Glanz

             Liebe windet Lohrbeerreiser, ihm zum ewig grunen Kranz

             Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser, unser’n guten Kaiser Franz.

“I shall say only that the ideal of multinational harmony symbolized by the Austrian Empire disappeared when he was fifteen, that he later recognized in America the only viable model for a new multinational harmony, and that he served his adopted country throughout its fifty years’ crisis, from Pearl Harbor to the end of the Cold War, by teaching Americans how to reconcile the exigencies of geopolitics with their liberal values, by inspiring a generation of students, by helping to found the academic discipline of international relations, by founding the FPRI as a feisty alternative to Establishment opinion, and finally by advising presidents and serving five times as an ambassador.

The speech was meant to be uplifting, but I knew it had literally “lifted his spirits” when I began to sing and noticed the nonagenarian spring to his feet in honor of his Habsburg emperor and when I was done singing he waved a salute as if to say danke schön.

Long thereafter, I recalled with a glow how pleased my FPRI sponsors must have been that I had given the FPRI’s founder a thrill. But when I asked them about it years later neither Harvey nor Alan remembered the episode! Sic transit gloria mundi.

The post-Cold War era—what I tell my students were “the best years of our lives”—came to a sudden, sickening end on September 11, 2001. I happened to be at the FPRI that morning, and we all watched the video of the second plane crashing into the World Trade Center on the television in Sicherman’s office. “We’re at war,” I remember saying, “only we don’t know yet with whom.” Needless to say, funding for think tanks relevant to national security, especially ones with expertise on Islam and radical movements, recovered. But I myself was thankfully AWOL from the heated debates over the George W. Bush administration’s War on Terror because it so happened that I had accepted an offer from HarperCollins to write a weighty volume (which turned into two) covering the entire sweep of American history from colonization to the present. So my head was decidedly elsewhere for the ensuing eight years. I had also stepped down as editor of Orbis in 2000 to be succeeded by David Eisenhower (to 2001), James Kurth (to 2007) and Mackubin Owens (to 2020), and under their guidance the journal has gone from strength to strength. Otherwise, my connections to the FPRI grew even more intimate during that decade. I did much of the work on the American history books in my FPRI office, enjoyed regular lunch conversations with Harvey about politics, history, and the Bible, and collaborated closely with Alan in the projects of the History Institute and Center for the Study of America and the West.

Luxenberg made no pretensions of being a scholar, his role being that of an impresario enabling the rest of us. But during these years, he also taught part-time at two Jewish schools in the Philadelphia suburbs, wrote more than a dozen articles and columns on religion and foreign policy, and authored two influential books aimed primarily at students. His lapidary account of the origins of modern Israel is especially valuable for being so clear, accurate, and dispassionate—an excellent example of that “plate glass” writing advocated by Pipes.[5]

The years flew by. My children grew up. The American history books appeared. The War on Terror and Great Recession bequeathed the Barack Obama landslide. But through it all, the FPRI had been a reliable constant. Then, suddenly, in December 2010, after 17 years at the helm, Harvey Sicherman died from a virulent cancer at age 65.

As we filed out of Harvey’s memorial service, several of the FPRI trustees shot me grave, knowing looks as if they suspected I might succeed him. I had considered that possibility, but even with Luxenberg doing 90 percent of the work, the job would have too much for me. I was not ready to retire from Penn and dreaded the prospects of fund-raising and administration. So ten days after the memorial service, I wrote this planning document in the form of a memorandum addressed to Alan and the chairman of the board, Robert Freeman.

FPRI SEARCH FOR A NEW PRESIDENT, January 4, 2011

Likely Pools: Former State, DoD, or GW Bush White House officials; Retired military officers; Foreign Policy experts in other think tanks; Academic refugees; Foreign Correspondents and journalists; Veterans of FPRI.

Attractive Qualities: Relative Youth; Ties to Philadelphia or else willingness to relocate; Experience beyond think tanks such as government or academics; Intellectual dynamism and future-oriented interests; Prestige, reputation, name recognition; Leadership skills (personality); Fund-raising skills and interest; Oral and written eloquence.

Possible Consultants: Adam Garfinkle; Henry Kissinger; Lawrence Husick; Colin Powell; Michael Noonan; James Hoge; Mac Owens; Richard Haass; Jacques deLisle; Eliot Cohen; James Kurth; Frank Hoffman; David Eisenhower; Bruce Berkowitz; Edward Turzanski; Niall Ferguson; John Lehman; Paul Kennedy; John Hillen; John Lewis Gaddis; Dov Zakheim.

Possible Nominees: Robert Kaplan; Michael Doran; Walter Russell Mead; Peter Feaver; Peter Wehner; Stephen Biddle; Adam Segal; Ronald Granieri; Aaron Friedberg.

Not a bad list. But it soon dawned on me that most requisite qualities were precisely those displayed for decades by Luxenberg, and in any case, when presidents die, do not their vice presidents automatically replace them?

In April 2011, the motive, means, and opportunity arrived for me to “nominate” the person who deserved the position more than anyone else. The occasion was the Institute’s Champagne Brunch for Partners at the Four Seasons Hotel. I was to introduce the guest speaker, Peter Bergen, a foreign correspondent and expert on Al Qaeda. But first Alan introduced me, with customary grace, as “the heart and soul of FPRI,” then started back to his table. But I called him back to the podium, put my arm around hm so he couldn’t escape, and fixed the audience with my own “grave, knowing look.” Alan, I announced, had loyally served the institution “since 19–aught–76″—longer than anyone in the room—and was therefore the real “heart and soul of FPRI.”

I don’t know whether my implicit nomination planted a seed in the minds of the trustees, but I like to think it played a small role in their decision to name Alan the next FPRI president.

The search took many months during which I was pleased to learn that Kaplan, Doran, and Mead were among the top candidates. But though all were interested, they all withdrew for various professional reasons, while Luxenberg has since confessed that he did not think himself up to the job (perhaps because Sicherman was such a hard act to follow). But eight successful months as Acting President convinced him otherwise. The FPRI had lost not a single grant, the programs had forged ahead, and Alan himself proved to be an earnest, eloquent, entertaining master of ceremonies.

The contrast with Sicherman is telling. He was surely larger than life, possessed of an outlandish style, and as glib as a stand-up comedian. His academic credentials were obvious, and he enjoyed high-level government contacts. In short, Sicherman was a celebrity. Luxenberg was valuable for the opposite reason. He did not need or want to be in the spotlight. His task was to enable others to shine. He did not “sell” his own personality to donors, scholars, and audiences. What he “sold” was the Foreign Policy Research Institute, and no one has done it better.

Eight years have now passed since Luxenberg was named president, and his record speaks volumes. The FPRI budget has grown to more than $2.5 million on the strength of new grants and the revival of ones from the Scaife Foundation and Carnegie Endowment. The Institute’s output via print, internet, and social media has multiplied several times over during the 2010s, and its impact has expanded proportionately. The Institute’s rapid and thorough embrace of digitalization, the internet, and social media has been astounding to old-timers such as myself. Alan gives the credit to others: the late Harry Richlin, who pioneered FPRI’s e-mail distribution, and especially Eli Gilman and Natalia Kopytnik, who manage the website and social media. But Alan’s will—and willingness to learn new skills—were indispensable to the transition from analog to digital. It surely would have taken far longer under Sicherman, whose charming conceit was to write everything out in ornate (barely legible) cursive—with a fountain pen!

The FPRI’s stable of senior fellows and affiliated scholars has also expanded rapidly over this decade without any drop off in quality. On the contrary, Alan has displayed an unerring eye for talent and integrity, unlike previous directors and presidents all of whom made some personnel blunders. Alan and his program directors are especially to be praised for attracting the many young scholars who have made precocious reputations for themselves through the FPRI (and some of whom, I am proud to say, have been graduate students from Penn). While the salaried staff remains comparatively small, the FPRI today taps the talents of more than a hundred scholars and thus punches well above its weight class. Their scholarship is what helps the in-house program directors to sustain fertile research programs on East Asia, Eurasia, China and Taiwan, Russia, the Black Sea basin, U.S. Foreign Policy, National Security, the Middle East, Think Tanks and Foreign Policy, plus a new program dear to Alan’s heart. That is Aya Marczyk’s project to teach critical thinking to Philadelphia high school students through historiographical debates. All told, the Institutes’ scholars generate some 300 essays per year totaling more than a million words and consumed by more than a quarter million followers.

Thanks to Luxenberg’s initiative the FPRI has remained refreshingly non-partisan, indeed uniquely so among American think tanks. It has formed civic partnerships with many other non-political institutions such as the Museum of the American Revolution, National Liberty Museum, World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, and research centers at the University of Pennsylvania and Temple. It now stages regular events, usually presided over by Alan himself, at such remote locations as Washington, D.C., Wilmington, Philadelphia’s suburbs, Princeton, and New York City (where Henry Kissinger is often in attendance). The plethora of achievements during Luxenberg’s tenure call to mind the quotation about Abraham Lincoln from his law partner William Herndon: “his ambition was a little engine that knew no rest.” And like Lincoln’s, Alan’s ambition has been not been for self but for the institution to which he devoted his life.

An old church joke tells of a pompous, high-hat Episcopal bishop being introduced at a public event and inwardly smiling as the emcee goes on at length about his virtues and achievements. But when the host nears the conclusion of his remarks, the bishop leans forward and whispers, “Don’t forget to mention my humility.” Luxenberg will no doubt blush to read this, but I close with two anecdotes that reveal his own true humility. It seems the agendas for meetings of the FPRI trustees always conclude with the president’s report, which meant the president’s time was often curtailed when the discussions about prior items ran long. But when a proposal was made to move the president’s report further up the agenda, Alan said no. He was very uncomfortable with the prospect that others might then be deprived of the floor on his account. The board also planned to create a Luxenberg Education Fund in honor of his dedication to teaching, but once again, he resisted the notion that anything be named after himself. In such small ways, not to mention large ways, he has always displayed warmth, kindness, and concern for the feelings of others.

Alan Luxenberg is more than a diplomat, more than a manager. He’s a mensch.


[1]. Harvey Sicherman, “Robert Strausz-Hupé: His Life and Times,” Orbis, vol. 47, no. 2 (2003): pp. 195-216.

[2]. Howard J. Wiarda, Think Tanks and Foreign Policy: The Foreign Policy Research Institute and Presidential Politics (Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 2010).

[3]. “Speculations on the Geopolitics of the Gorbachev Era” was soon picked up and published as a chapter edited by two of McDougall’s colleagues at Penn, Alfred J. Rieber and Alvin Z. Rubinstein, in Perestroika at the Crosswords (Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 1991): pp. 326-62, and was highly praised by no less than authority than Richard Nixon.

[4]. Harvey Sicherman’s accomplishments and inimitable character are affectionately described in Walter A. McDougall, “Harvey Sicherman: A Celebration,” Orbis vol. 55, no. 3 (2011): pp. 339-46.

[5]. Alan H. Luxenberg, The Palestine Mandate and the Creation of Israel, 1920-1949 (Broomall, Pa.: Mason Crest Publishers, 2007). See, also, Radical Islam (Mason Crest, 2009).