Remembering Professor Emeritus Robert L. Pfaltzgraff, Jr.
By Professor Richard Shultz, Director, International Security Studies Program
On Friday, November 17, 2023, we said farewell to Professor Emeritus Robert L. Pfaltzgraff, Jr., who held the distinguished position of the Shelby Cullom Davis Professor of International Security Studies at The Fletcher School, and, for half a century, served as a pillar of the Fletcher faculty.
Arriving at Fletcher in 1971 from the University of Pennsylvania, Professor Pfaltzgraff brought with him a vision to establish the International Security Studies Program (ISSP) and the field of International Security (IS). His intent was clear: not to dictate what students should think about the global political-military-security setting but to equip Fletcher students with the ability to think critically. Today, Fletcher's IS curriculum stands as a testament to his enduring vision, a legacy that has benefitted generations of students.
For 50 years, Professor Pfaltzgraff implemented this vision, positioning Fletcher as a leader in international security education. He was more than an educator; he was a guiding force — a teacher, practitioner, thought leader, and policy influencer in the field of international security.
His thought leadership challenged, changed, and left a lasting mark on how government leaders approached political-military strategy and national security policy. His counsel crossed borders, advising officials in the U.S. and abroad on strategy, defense modernization, alliance relations, proliferation, counterproliferation, crisis management, and homeland security.
As the founder and President of the Institute of Foreign Policy Analysis (IFPA), an independent, nonpartisan research organization specializing in national security, foreign policy, and defense planning issues, Professor Pfaltzgraff’s influence reverberated. His work, sought by policymakers, military leaders, and the broader public policy community, demonstrated the impact one individual could have on shaping global perspectives.
While his reach extended internationally, Fletcher remained Professor Pfaltzgraff’s center of gravity. His commitment to teaching and mentoring was unparalleled, evident in his record as the faculty member who served on more doctoral committees than any other at Fletcher. For countless students, he was more than an instructor; he was a thoughtful mentor, offering considerate attention and leaving a permanent impact.
As I reflect on Professor Pfaltzgraff's legacy, I recognize the profound privilege of having been guided by a visionary, a mentor, and a compassionate teacher. His influence will forever resonate within the corridors of Fletcher and through the minds and hearts of the many fortunate students who experienced his wisdom and kindheartedness.
For those who would like pay tribute to Professor Pfaltzgraff, donations in his memory can be made to the Robert L. Pfaltzgraff, Jr. Professorship in International Security.