Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies Program on Energy and Sustainable Development Stanford University

Colleagues gathered at a reception to honor Coit Blacker for his decade of leadership at FSI. From left to right: Blacker, Condoleezza Rice, Stephen Krasner and Ronald Spogli.
Photo credit: Rod Searcey

June 14, 2012 - FSI Stanford, CISAC News

With stories and praise, colleagues honor Blacker for leadership

By Adam Gorlick

He’s been a presidential adviser, academic administrator, scholar and mentor.
But listening to those who best know Coit Blacker talk about his professional achievements is to hear people describe a close friend nearly everyone calls “Chip.”

“One of the reasons Chip has been so successful as a leader is that he is simply a good guy,” said Condoleezza Rice, who first met Blacker at Stanford in the early 1980s – long before she would become the university’s provost and later serve as President George W. Bush’s secretary of state.

“Great leaders are first and foremost good people,” Rice said.

After a decade leading Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Blacker is stepping down from the position on Aug. 31. He will be succeeded by President Emeritus Gerhard Casper.

Following a yearlong sabbatical, Blacker plans to return to campus and continue teaching about foreign policy – a topic he mastered through academic research and as President Bill Clinton’s special assistant for national security affairs and senior director of Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian affairs at the National Security Council.

Reading letters written by Clinton, former national security adviser Sandy Berger and Michael McFaul – the U.S. ambassador to Russia and FSI senior fellow who studied closely with Blacker – Rice capped a lineup of colleagues, students and donors who honored the departing director during a farewell reception held June 14 at the Cantor Arts Center.

“Under your directorship, the institute has enhanced its status as one of the globe’s most prominent and influential centers for the study of international relations,” Clinton wrote. “The institute’s research is helping us move toward a more stable, sustainable and equitable world in this age of interdependence. In addition to your devotion to Stanford, I will always be grateful for your outstanding work at the National Security Council during my presidency.”

Nearly 20 years before joining the Clinton administration in 1995, Blacker arrived at Stanford as a postdoctoral fellow in the university's Arms Control and Disarmament Program. He lectured and taught through the 1980s, becoming a popular professor known for working closely with his students.

“I saw in him a mentor who not only excelled in his field, but did so with intellectual fortitude, integrity, and a deep-seeded sense of service to which I only hoped I could aspire,” said Theo Milonopoulos, a former student of Blacker’s who is now a Fulbright Scholar at King’s College London.

In 1991, Blacker became a senior fellow at the Institute for International Studies – the precursor to FSI. He was appointed as the institute’s deputy director in 1998, and took over as director five years later.

Under Blacker’s tenure, FSI expanded its number of research centers from four to seven, and grew its faculty from 21 to 32 professors. The institute’s endowment is nearly $200 million, up from $122 million in 2002.

“FSI has really become the jewel in the crown of Stanford’s interdisciplinary institutes under Chip’s leadership,” said Ann Arvin, Stanford’s dean of research. “I hesitate to say how many times I have advised others to just ask Chip how they do it at FSI – whatever `it’ may be.”

Continuing to move between the academic and political worlds, Blacker advised Vice President Al Gore on foreign policy issues during the 2000 presidential race.

Back at Stanford a year later, he was awarded the Laurence and Naomi Carpenter Hoagland Prize for undergraduate teaching, and was named the Olivier Nomellini Family University Fellow in Undergraduate Education in 2002.

Even surrounded by faculty at Stanford, Blacker was never far from policymakers in Washington and working abroad. In a letter read by Rice, McFaul wrote directly to his old teacher.

“You have been and remain one of my most important mentors,” McFaul wrote. “I have not made a single decision in my professional career without first seeking your advice.”

“Chip has had a distinguished career – not just as a scholar, not just as a teacher – but of course as a policymaker,” Rice said. “It is that wonderful sensibility for what policymakers need and listen to that helps him to translate Stanford and its great research for the policy world.”

In 2005, Blacker was instrumental in securing a $50 million naming gift from Brad Freeman and Ronald Spogli, partners in a private equity investment firm.

“We believed very much in the guiding principal of interdisciplinary research which is at the core of FSI today,” said Spogli, a former U.S. ambassador to Italy and San Marino. “But the most important reason that we made our gift is Chip Blacker. We believed in Chip as the leader who would be able to take FSI to a new and greater level.”

Much of Blacker’s success has revolved around his development and support of FSI’s faculty. Stephen Krasner, FSI’s deputy director who has worked with Blacker for about 20 years, praised his friend and colleague for fostering an environment where researchers are eager to collaborate and share ideas.

“From the outside – when Chip does these things – they all look flawless, effortless, perfectly organized, well structured,” Krasner said. “From the inside, you can see how astute, wise and generous Chip has been in developing FSI and its faculty and activities.”


Topics: Education | Foreign policy | Governance, Organizations & Security | International Development | Russia