Yale Bulletin and Calendar

February 1, 2008|Volume 36, Number 16















H. Bradford Westerfield

In Memoriam: H. Bradford Westerfield

Intelligence expert, taught top leaders

Holt Bradford Westerfield, the Damon Wells Professor Emeritus of International Studies and a longtime member of the Department of Political Science, died on Jan. 19 at the age of 79 near his summer home in Watch Hill, Rhode Island.

As a professor at Yale, Westerfield introduced several generations of future leaders to American foreign policy and statecraft, including current President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney, two directors of the CIA, a director of the National Security Agency, a U.S. secretary of defense, several seated and former U.S. senators, and many noted journalists. By one count, Westerfield taught over 10,000 undergraduates at Yale. His two signature lecture courses were “Introduction to International Relations” (called simply “Westerfield” by the students) and “Intelligence and Covert Operations” (better known to students as “Spies and Lies”).

“Brad Westerfield was a wonderful scholar, teacher and mentor,” said Bruce Russett, the Dean Acheson Professor of International Relations and longtime Yale colleague. “I believe he knew more about America’s intelligence agencies than any other scholar or policy intellectual save for a few who worked near the top, under constraints of great secrecy. He shared much of his knowledge with students and colleagues, but much of it is lost with him. So, too, is his sound and humane judgment on all matters public and private.”

Another colleague, Joseph LaPalombara, the Arnold Wolfers Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Management, said: “Brad Westerfield was a sterling example of a threatened species in American higher education, namely, a teacher who considered the enlightenment of students to be the university professor’s prime professional and moral responsibility.”

In 1993, Yale College honored Westerfield with the first Byrnes-Sewall Award for effectiveness in stimulating undergraduate learning. In response to his award, Westerfield wrote to the donor of the prize, David Atkinson, “It is an immensely rewarding calling, endlessly rejuvenating, full of sheer fun, so much so that at times it seems almost self-indulgent, which makes the thanks of students especially reassuring.”

In 2003, Yale’s Alpha Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa awarded him the DeVane Medal in appreciation for his lifetime in teaching.

Westerfield’s life in New Haven and career at Yale were interwoven. He was raised in academia, born March 7, 1928, to Mary Beatrice and Ray B. Westerfield, himself a Yale professor of economics.

Self-described as “a precocious nerd,” Westerfield entered Yale College at age 16, residing in Timothy Dwight, and later graduated with the Class of 1947. He earned his B.A. with highest honors in both political science and philosophy and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. During his undergraduate years, he received the Thatcher, Ten Eyck and DeForest Prizes for public speaking, was president of the Political Union, president of the Debating Association, editor-in-chief of the Senior Class Book and the news announcer and commentator for the newly established radio station WYBC.

Westerfield earned an M.A. in 1951 and a Ph.D. in 1952 at the Harvard University Graduate School of Public Administration (later renamed the John F. Kennedy School of Government). His fellow students and instructors included McGeorge Bundy, Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Sam Huntington. It was at Harvard that his lifelong interest in the coordination of espionage and other intelligence services of the U.S. State and Defense Departments was nurtured. His awards there included the Sheldon Traveling Fellowship which took him to London, where he completed a thesis that would become his first book, “Foreign Policy and Party Politics: Pearl Harbor to Korea,” published in 1955. 

Westerfield joined the faculty of Harvard as an instructor in government, a position he held 1952-1953 and 1954-1956. From 1953 to 1954, while on a Congressional Fellowship from the American Political Science Association, Westerfield served as a member of the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where newly elected Senator John F. Kennedy was a member, and as a legislative assistant to Representative Brooks Hays of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He was an assistant professor of political science at the University of Chicago from 1956 to 1957.

In 1957, he returned to Yale as a resident fellow and assistant professor of international relations. He rose through the ranks and in 1985 was named to the Damon Wells Professorship in International Studies, which by coincidence was named for a former student of Westerfield’s. He chaired the political science department 1970-1972.

In the late 1950s and 1960s, Westerfield was labeled a “hawkish conservative.” He urged the build-up of U.S. forces in the Far East and took hard positions on countering the expansion of Soviet power in the world. During the ensuing decade, the U.S. Information Service provided him with platforms across Western Europe and Asia for independent lecturing on American foreign policy, but as his own views evolved to a more dovish stance by the 1980s, he found himself increasingly at odds with Washington, D.C., and these forums ceased.

Westerfield also served several terms on the Yale College Admissions Committee beginning in 1961. He was instrumental in breaking the Jewish quota and later pushing for an effort to attract greater numbers of African-American students and, when the time came, for women to be admitted.

Westerfield is survived by his wife Carolyn (Yale School of Architecture, M.C.P. 1959); son Leland (Yale College Class of 1990) and daughter Pamela Bingham (Yale College Class of 1985); granddaughters, Isabel, Serena, Avery and Lindsay; brother Putney (Yale College Class of 1951); and cousin Chaplin Barnes (Yale College 1962, Yale Law School 1965).

Memorial contributions may be made to the Carolyn & H. Bradford Westerfield Fellowship Fund at Yale, and mailed c/o John Loge, dean of Timothy Dwight College, P.O. Box 208238, New Haven, CT 06520. A memorial service for Westerfield will be held at Battell Chapel on April 9.


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