An Oral History of Walter LaFeber

Walter LaFeber, one of America’s most distinguished historians, wowed three generations of Cornellians from the moment he arrived on campus in 1959 down through his death in 2021. He was a legendary teacher whose lectures on American diplomatic history packed Bailey Hall in the 1960s and 1970s on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and, yes, Saturdays.  He was a prize-winning scholar whose insightful accounts of U.S. relations with Russia, Central America, and Japan and best-selling textbook, The American Age, became “must-reads” in history courses across the country.

He was also a remarkable mentor to hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students who pursued careers in college teaching, U.S. government service, the law, the fine arts, and business and industry.

As a testament to LaFeber’s influence, the Center for Presidential History joined a host of these former students to do three things:

1. Host a conference at the Cornell Tech campus in New York.
2. Publish a Festchrift with Cornell University Press to honor LaFeber.
3.Collect a set of oral histories to preserve and understand LaFeber’s influence on multiple generations of students and scholars.

You will find information related to each of these below.


On October 27-29, 2023, dozens of Walter LaFeber’s former students will gather at a conference to remember and honor his life, work, and influence. The conference will take place in New York City, on the campus of Cornell Tech.

Summary Schedule for LaFeber Festschrift Conference

Shapers of Post-Cold War US Foreign Policy


Thomas Pepinsky is the Walter F. LaFeber Professor of Government and the Director of the Southeast Asia Program at Cornell University.


Jeffrey Bialos (Cornell BA, Class of 1978) heads the Aerospace, Defense, and Security Practice at Eversheds Sutherland LLP, a global law firm based in Washington DC. 

Robert Einhorn (Cornell BA, Class of 1969) is a senior fellow in the Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative at the Strobe Talbott Center at the Brookings Institution.

Eric Edelman (Cornell BA, Class of 1972) has been Counselor at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments since 2009, when he retired from the US Foreign Service. 

Stephen Hadley (Cornell BA, Class of 1969) is a Principal at Rice, Hadley, Gates & Manuel LLC, an international consulting firm in Washington DC.

Paul Jones (Cornell BA, Class of 1982) retired from the US Department of State in 2020.  

Shannon Smith (Cornell PhD, Class of 1998) is Middle East and Africa Section Manager for the Congressional Research Service.

For a full bio of the moderator and participants in this round table, click here

Sculptors of Modern America in Law, Industry, and Finance


Andrew Tisch (Cornell BS, Class of 1971) is Co-Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Loews Corporation.


Stephen Arbogast (Cornell BA, Class of 1970) is Director of the Kenan-Flager Energy Center and Professor of Practice of Finance at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where he has taught since 2014.

Alison Dreizen (Cornell BA, Class of 1974) is counsel at Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP, where she focuses on cross-border transactions, mergers and acquisitions, and joint ventures.

LizAnn Rogovoy Eisen (Cornell BA Class of 1994) is an Acting Professor of the Practice at Cornell Law School/Cornell Tech, and a Senior Regulatory and Strategic Partner at Braven, an early-stage investment firm. 

David Maisel (Cornell Class of 1968) spent his career in the financial industry, where he specialized in municipal bonds.

Eduardo M. Peñalver (Cornell BA, Class of 1995) is President of Seattle University.

Peter Schuck (Cornell BA, Class of 1962) is the Simeon E. Baldwin Professor of Law Emeritus at Yale University, where he taught for thirty years, serving briefly as deputy dean of the law school.

C. Evan Stewart (Cornell BA, Class of 1974, JD Class of 1977) is a senior partner at Cohen and Gresser LLP in Manhattan, where he specializes in securities litigation.

David Zalaznick (Cornell BA, Class of 1976) Co-founding partner of The Jordan Company, and Jordan/Zalaznick Advisers Inc., two private equity firms; he currently serves as Chairman of Jordan/Zalaznick Advisers Inc. Mr. Zalaznick served as Vice Chairman of Cornell’s Board of Trustees; he is a Trustee Emeritus.

For a full bio of the moderator and participants in this round table, click here



Susan Brewer [‘87], University of Wisconsin Stevens Point

Robert Hannigan [‘71], Suffolk University 

Frank Costigliola [‘72], University of Connecticut \

Jeffrey A. Engel [‘95], Southern Methodist University

Lorena Oropeza [‘95], UC-Berkeley

James Siekmeier [‘92], West Virginia University

Anne Foster [‘95], Indiana State University

Andrew Rotter [‘75], Colgate University

Sayuri Shimizu [‘91], Rice University

Jessica Wang [‘88], University of British Columbia

Eric Alterman [‘82], CUNY-Brooklyn College

Richard Immerman [‘71], Temple University



Walt liked to say that “a professor is someone who thinks otherwise,” an aphorism that resonates with the thirty participants in this conference and countless other Cornell alums whose lives he changed. 

With the cooperation of Cornell University Press, many of these former students, now scholars in their own right, wrote a book to honor him. Each chapter explores a combination of LaFeber’s ideas, published works, and their influence on the world.

Click here to view a PDF of the entire book.

Below are PDFs of individual chapters.


Chapter 1 - "Remembering Walt: From the Arts Quad to the Beacon Theater" By David Green and Douglas Little

Chapter 2 - "Walter LaFeber: The Making of a Wisconsin School Revisionist" By Lloyd C. Gardner and Thomas J. McCormick

Chapter 3 - "Finding Walter LaFeber in the Records" By David A. Langbart

Chapter 4 - "Extending the Sphere: The New Empire" By Susan A. Brewer and Robert E. Hannigan

Chapter 5 - "Reconstructing the Backstory: America, Russia, and the Cold War" By Frank Costigliola and Jeffrey A. Engel

Chapter 6 - "Thinking about Democracy: Inevitable Revolutions" By Lorena Oropeza and James F. Siekmeier

Chapter 7 - "Turning to Asia: The Clash" By Anne L. Foster and Andrew Rotter

Chapter 8 - "Demystifying Globalization and US Power: Michael Jordan and Global Capitalism" By Sayuri Guthrie-Shimizu and Jessica Wang

Chapter 9 - "Confronting the Tocqueville Problem: The Deadly Bet" By Eric Alterman and Richard H. Immerman

Chapter 10 - "With a Bow to Walter LaFeber, 'What Then Can We Say in Conclusion?'" 

About the Contributors 

Oral History

The Center for Presidential History is creating a collection of oral histories by speaking with Walter LaFeber’s former students. These explore LaFeber’s career and development, students’ memories of him, and reflections on LaFeber’s influence on scholarship, politics, and the wider world.

For those attending the conference, you may sign up to record your oral history. Click here: