Landrum Bolling

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Landrum Bolling, (born November 13, 1913),[1] is a leading expert and activist for peaceful resolution of conflict in the Middle East.[2] He started out his career as a journalist, working as a war correspondent during and after World War II. He taught at Beloit College and Brown University before becoming president of Earlham College from 1958 to 1973.[3] He has been actively involved in the foreign policy of several presidential administrations, serving as an unofficial communication channel between the U.S. and the Palestinian Liberation Organization in Jimmy Carter’s administration. He has been honored with many awards for his work to promote peace, and in the fall of 2002, Earlham College named its new Social Sciences building after him.

Early Life and Education[edit]

Bolling was born in Parksville, Tennessee and earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in 1933 and his master’s in Political Science at the University of Chicago in 1938.[3] He is a lifelong Quaker, and this religion has informed his pacifism and belief in the importance of understanding the other side’s point of view.[4]

Military Career and Journalism[edit]

Bolling started out his career as a journalist. During World War II, he rescinded his status as a conscientious objector to serve as a war correspondent in the European theater, reporting from Rome, Vienna, Berlin, and later, during its liberation from Nazi occupation, Sarajevo. After the end of the war, he remained in Berlin to work as an overseas editor for a New York-based news agency.[4]

Academic career[edit]

Bolling was an instructor of political science at Brown University from 1938 to 1940. He then became an associate professor at Beloit College, and in 1948, he became a professor of political science at Earlham College. He was promoted to the position of General Secretary of Earlham in 1955, and in 1958, he became president of the college, a position he held for fifteen years. After his term ended in 1973, Bolling became the president of the Lilly Endowment fund, a large grant making organization; he stayed in this position until 1978, when he became chief executive officer of the Council on Foundations. In these positions, Bolling helped to fund research at colleges and universities across the country. In 1982, he served as research professor of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service for one year. He has also been chairman or board member of the Associated Colleges of Indiana, the Indiana Conference on Higher Education, the National Association of Protestant Colleges and Universities, and the Association of American Colleges.[1][5]

Earlham College Presidency[edit]

Bolling was the president of Earlham College from 1958-1973, during which time the college began to become nationally known. Under his leadership, the college gained a Phi Beta Kappa chapter and hired its first African American faculty member, William Cousins. Bolling greatly expanded off-campus and international programs, and he supported building initiatives, adding the Lilly Library, Hoerner Residence Hall, the Runyan Center, and Noyes and Stanley Halls to the facilities the school offered. After his resignation, Bolling was named an honorary trustee of Earlham College. Later, in 2002, the college named their new social sciences building, the Landrum Bolling Center for Interdisciplinary Studies and Social Sciences, after him, as a tribute to his work to promote peaceful, socially just cooperation between different groups of people.[3][5]

Governmental Work and Activism[edit]

Bolling has been an activist for peace and social justice all his life, both in the United States and abroad. After working as a journalist, he worked in the government to help improve communications between the U.S. and Palestine for many years, under several presidents. Most notably, during Jimmy Carter’s administration, he was a highly trusted unofficial backchannel from the White House to the Palestine Liberation Organization and its leader, Yaser Arafat.[4] He maintained his connections to leaders on all sides of the conflicts in the Middle East throughout his career.[5] Later, he worked with NGOs, government officials, and religious leaders in Bosnia to promote cooperation between ethnic and religious groups there.[4] He also worked extensively with the non-profit group Mercy Corps, an international humanitarian agency, serving first as Director-at-Large and more recently as a senior advisor,[1] and he was the president of Pax World Service, a non-profit group affiliated with Mercy Corps.[6] From 1983-1988, he was the president and rector at The Tantur Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem.[7] He is also a senior advisor and board member of the Conflict Management Group in Cambridge, Massachusetts and a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy in Washington, D.C.[5][7]


Bolling has written and co-written several books. His first book, Search for Peace in the Middle East (American Friends Service Committee 1970), is an analysis of the conflict in the Middle East that helped to inspire today’s two-state solution. His other books include This is Germany, Private Foreign Aid: U.S. philanthropy for relief and development (Westview Press 1982),[8] Reporters Under Fire: U.S. Media Coverage of Conflicts in Lebanon and Central America (Westview Press 1984),[9] and Conflict Resolution: Track Two Diplomacy.[4] Bolling also wrote the documentary Searching for Peace in the Middle East.[10]

Honors and Awards[edit]

Bolling has received honorary doctorates from over thirty foreign and American colleges and universities, including the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, the University of Notre Dame, Oberlin College, Haverford College, Indiana University, and Waseda University.[4][5] In 1998, The University of Tennessee at Knoxville awarded him with its prestigious Founders Medal.[11] In 2000, the National Peace Foundation honored him with the Peacemaker/Peacebuilder award. In 2005, he received the James L. Fisher Award for Distinguished Service to Education by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education,[3] and in 2010, he received the lifetime achievement award from the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations.[6]