When the new academic year begins in August of 2014 we will for the first time in 40 years be without Vince McHale. We wish him all the best, and we will sorely miss him.
Vincent E. McHale joined the Department of Political Science in 1975. He had earned his Ph.D. in Political Science at Pennsylvania State University in 1969, and then served as Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania before coming to CWRU as Associate Professor. In 1976, Ken Grundy resigned as department chair, and Vince took over – on an acting basis until 1978, and then nearly permanently. By “nearly permanently,” I mean that he served until 2003, when he passed the position on to me. Of Vince’s time as Chair, Professor Grundy recalls that, “his steady hand and sure sense of fairness during difficult times for the University and the Department speak well for his judgment and wisdom. His interpersonal skills especially contributed to a pleasant working environment.” It may not be so appropriate a metaphor, but I thought of Vince as sort of the gentle parish priest or attentive bartender who by calmly listening could smooth troubled waters.
Dr. Andrew Lucker, who has known Vince for twenty three years as a graduate student and then as a member of the department, remembers “all of the undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty members that Vince has helped and encouraged over the years. Vince would always go above and beyond the call of duty when a student or colleague was having a tough time of it or was struggling with a difficult issue at CWRU. That included calmly offering his wise advice on numerous issues and recommending solutions when a problem would confront a student or a colleague.” He adds that “Vince was especially adept at cutting through the various bureaucratic and administrative obstacles” at the university. Perhaps it was Vince’s experience in the U.S. Army – where he served before attending college – that prepared him to deal with large organizations.
As many students learned from his courses, Professor McHale’s military experience also prompted a lifetime interest in the processes and uses of Intelligence and the role of violence in politics. His courses on these topics – POSC 370G and POSC 334 – became his signature courses, and the most popular electives the department offered. At Penn State he earned a certificate in Russian Area Studies, and his dissertation on party politics in the French Fifth Republic benefited from his military service in France. With this background, Professor McHale continued to research elections in both Western and Eastern Europe. For the past three decades Professor McHale has combined his interests in elections and intelligence analysis as a consultant on European elections and political issues for U.S. government agencies, and as a recurring lecturer at the Sherman Kent School for Intelligence Analysis in Washington, D.C.
In addition to teaching in and leading the Department of Political Science, Professor McHale took the lead in creating and for many years directed the International Studies Program. Under his leadership, International Studies became the largest interdisciplinary major in the College, and has provided a way for hundreds of students to study the world across borders in a broad and flexible way.
Through both his teaching and his leadership, Vince has communicated his experience of and enthusiasm for political analysis, government, and international work to literally generations of students. He has counselled students on how to act in and make careers in those fields while providing other students a sense of the fun and seriousness of politics. Now as Vince leaves the classroom he is not “retiring” because he expects to continue and even expand his research and consulting efforts. May the road rise up to meet him, and the wind be ever at his back.
November 5, 2014
I’ve had a long association with Vince McHale. But as I sit down to revisit that association, it feels as if I’m writing something in memoriam. No way! Vince is still very much alive, still filled with plenty of vinegar and whatever it is that is usually paired with vinegar, and bopping around town as busy as ever.
I have been at CWRU since 1966 until I retired in 2005, and a good many of those years were enjoyed with my colleague Vince McHale – since 1976 in fact. Indeed, my links with Vince go back earlier than that. In the summer of 1965 I was invited to be a visiting faculty member at Penn State and during that short spell Vince turned up in my class on intelligence operations. It was a big class and I didn’t get to know him well. The other early linkage is that Vince and I studied under the same doctoral supervisor. Vern Aspaturian was a stimulating lecturer and a stickler for accuracy. Vern was one of the few experts on Soviet Foreign Policy in this country who did not spring from the émigré community. Vern took Vince under his wing and trained him well. He was regularly involved in government and think tank circles. Both Vince and I wanted to emulate his style. In that regard Vince and I matched up well. We were both Pennsylvania city boys from small colleges. And we both continued our studies at Penn State although we did not meet one another until I had left State College.
In 1976 Vince applied for an opening in our department (I was the Chair in those days) and we had him to Cleveland for an interview. I met him at the Rapid station in University Circle and one of the first things he said to me was to remind me that I had taught him in class while I visited at Penn State.
At CWRU we seemed to hit it off smoothly. I soon stepped down as chairman and Vince, we were pleased to learn, agreed to take over the job a few years later. Through Vince’s long tenure as chairman the department purred along under his guidance. Vince was cool, pretty unflappable and open. He treated all of his colleagues with fairness and generosity, insofar as the university was in a position to be generous in those lean years. On several occasions I assumed the role of acting chairman when Vince went on leave or took a sabbatical and together the department managed to survive difficult times and in some instances difficult College and University leadership.
Most of all I remember Vince’s steady lead, his willingness to hear us out, and his firm hand when junior faculty needed guidance and direction. During his tenure in the Chair the Department created the Center for Policy Studies, launched the Friday Public Affairs Discussion Group, began the practice of inviting public officials in to teach practicum-like courses on local and state government and administration, and started the International Studies concentration. He often would pitch in to help a colleague move, deal with sickness and address troublesome personal issues. More than anything, it was this human dimension of Vince that I will always remember fondly.
Vince showed many of these same qualities toward the students. He regularly carried more than his fair share of advisees, spent long hours talking them through problems and helping them deal with personal predicaments, administrative pitfalls, and with classroom challenges. His office was always open and his was a sympathetic ear. Vince also supervised a number of Ph.D. students, sometimes the more problematic ones. In short, when colleagues and students needed help, Vince unselfishly pitched in to steer us all through complicated issues.
In short, Vince McHale was the strong backbone of the department for a long while and together with our Departmental Assistant, Sharon Skowronski, and a few others in the Department we survived whatever hurdles were put in our way and took advantage of the opportunities we were offered. Thanks Vince for being who you are – don’t change.
If you would like to share recollections of Professor McHale, please send them by e-mail to Jennifer Bochik in the department office: Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org.