Provost Peggy Agouris sent the following message to the campus community on April 11, 2023. – Ed.
I write to share the news that the Department of Government recently learned of the death of Professor Emeritus of Government Roger W. Smith on November 28, 2022.
Professor Smith joined the faculty of William & Mary in 1967 as an Assistant Professor of Government. He was appointed Associate Professor in 1972, and Professor in 1980. He received his A.B. degree, magna cum laude, from Harvard College in 1958, and his M.A (1963) and Ph.D. (1971) degrees in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley. He retired from William & Mary in 2001.
In all but his first few years at William & Mary, Professor Smith was the senior political philosopher in the Department of Government, shaping its offerings and carrying a heavy burden of courses and thesis supervision. He taught a wide range of courses, including the history of political philosophy, ancient, modern, and contemporary, and American Political Thought at every level. It was in the courses offered as seminars, however, that his originality was evident: War and Justice; Freedom; Politics and Literature; Human Destructiveness and Politics; The Holocaust and the Moral Imagination; The Self and the Others; The Individual and Society, and Varieties of Feminist Ideologies, for example. He was much admired by his students and was recognized as an Alumni Fellow for his excellence in teaching in 1978.
Professor Smith’s scholarly focus on genocide attracted international attention. He was the author or editor of three books and more than 50 articles. He also was a founding member of the International Association of Genocide Scholars, serving as president in 1997-1999. His scholarship and activism in drawing attention to genocide and fighting genocide denialism brought him honors and accolades across the globe, including his membership on the International Council of the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem. In 1996 the Armenian National Committee presented him with its Freedom Award for scholarship on holocaust denial. His work on the Armenian genocide brought him to the Zoryan Institute, where he served as chair of the Academic Board from 2004 until his death. He played a leading role in the establishment of the Institute’s journal, Genocide Studies and Prevention, including serving as founding co-editor for the publication now known as Genocide Studies International.
Reflections on his contributions to political theory and genocide studies point to his crucial role as a mentor to young scholars and an architect of academic programming in the field of genocide studies. The case of Armenia was particularly important to Professor Smith. In recognition of his efforts to bring attention to this catastrophe, in 2008 the President of the Republic of Armenia presented him with the Movses Khorenatsi Medal, described as “the highest award of the Republic of Armenia,” awarded to individuals for their outstanding achievements in the fields of culture, art, literature, education, social sciences, and sports.
In 2017, Professor Smith was honored by St Andrews University in Scotland with an Honorary Doctorate of Letters (D. Litt.) in recognition of his career in political theory and genocide studies. His record of scholarship and his passion for justice extended well beyond his retirement, nearly until the moment of his passing.
Roger Smith is survived by his wife Martha, their children David and Louisa Smith, and daughter-in-law Amy Smith.