Profiles in giving back: Dr. Allison Blakely
As a junior at the University of Oregon, Allison Blakely WF ‘62 got a big surprise: A professor and mentor had nominated him for the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. When he accepted, he recalls, he “still didn’t have a good sense of how important an award it was.”
Unsure about where he wanted to take his career, but having graduated with an ROTC commission that entailed two years of active duty military service, Dr. Blakely was given a four-year active leave from the U.S. Army to pursue graduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley with the Fellowship.
“In addition to allowing me to go directly into graduate school, the Fellowship literally launched my career as an educator and professional historian,” says Dr. Blakely. “It’s hard to exaggerate the importance of that award to me at that particular time.”
When the leave period expired Dr. Blakely completed the active duty requirement, including one year in Vietnam. Upon returning he spent a brief time teaching in the history department at Stanford while completing his dissertation in Russian History. Curious about experiencing the culture of a predominantly Black institution and encouraged by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation to fulfill his Fellowship requirements at an HBCU, he was recruited for and accepted a position at Howard University, where he thrived and had the freedom to add an emerging scholarly interest in the European dimensions of the African diaspora to his teaching and research. After 30 years at Howard, he accepted a position at Boston University in 2001, where he is now professor emeritus after retiring in 2014.
Today, Dr. Blakely is just completing a six-year term on the National Council for the Humanities, to which President Obama appointed him. He is the author of three books, including the 1988 American Book Award-winning Russia and the Negro: Blacks in Russian History and Thought. From 2006 to 2009 he was national president of the Phi Beta Kappa Society.
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This story appeared in the spring 2016 issue of Fellowship, the newsletter of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. To see the full newsletter, click here.