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Emeritus Professor Derek Waller

We are sorry to have to let colleagues know of the death, on 31 December 2009, of Professor Derek Waller, Emeritus Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University, Tennessee, USA, who was a highly-influential figure in the successful exchange programme between Vanderbilt and Leeds which ran for some thirty years. Established in 1973, the programme provided for around 20 students from Vanderbilt, drawn from the full spread of disciplines, to spend their junior (third) year, or a semester, at Leeds. In return, a smaller number of postgraduate students from Leeds received a scholarship from Vanderbilt to study there for a year. There was also an annual exchange of staff, as part of which Professor Waller came to Leeds as Programme Director in 1980-81. He was a good friend to Leeds and was assiduous in promoting the programme throughout his time at Vanderbilt, maintaining his interest in and contact with it right up to his retirement.

The following announcement was made by Vanderbilt University after the death of Professor Waller: Derek John Waller, a retired Vanderbilt political scientist who taught and wrote extensively about the politics of Communist China, died on Dec. 31. The Sewanee, Tenn., resident, who was 72, had suffered from pancreatic cancer. Waller, professor of political science, emeritus, taught Vanderbilts first course on the Communist Chinese system of government during a time of keen American interest in Chinas turbulent political and cultural developments. The British native was a graduate of the London School of Economics. He earned his masters at Indiana University and doctorate at University of Londons School of Oriental and African Studies before joining the Vanderbilt faculty in 1969. Waller was conducting research in Hong Kong during the summer of 1971 when he managed to secure a visa to visit mainland China. Wallers trip occurred several months before President Richard Nixons famed visit to the Peoples Republic of China. The Tennessean reported on his trip, noting that he had walked across a bridge into Red China. Waller was quoted in the article as saying everyone was friendly, in marked contrast to official propaganda. There were placards everywhere condemning the United States and its policy in Vietnam. During that same trip, Waller visited West Pakistan, where he found strong evidence of massive economic aid from Russia. Waller was a former associate dean and director of the Vanderbilts East Asian Studies Program. He developed Vanderbilts International Studies Program in London and served as director of Vanderbilt-in-England. Waller was a collector and dealer of rare books on Tibet and India. His publications included The Pundits; British Exploration of Tibet and Central Asia (1990), which was translated into Japanese, and The Government and Politics of the Peoples Republic of China (1981). Derek was a wonderful professor who was deeply admired by faculty and students, Bruce Oppenheimer, professor of political science and acting department chair, said. He was a class act in every sense of the word and will be greatly missed. Erwin Hargrove, professor of political science, emeritus, and former department chair, remembers Waller as a delightful colleague who loved to travel to faraway countries, including Singapore, India and Burma. He was deeply curious and versatile in his knowledge of a wide range of subjects. During his retirement he volunteered for the Sewanee Writers Conference and Sewanee Elementary School and was secretary of the University of the Souths Friends of the Library board. Waller is survived by his wife, Gayle McKeen; son, Daniel; daughter, Juliet (Alan) and grandson, Eli.

Published: 20 April 2010