Byrnes came to IU in 1956 as a Russian specialist and founded the institute now bearing his name in 1958. During his tenure, Byrnes helped shape the careers of Kremlinologists like former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and former U.S. Ambassador to Russia James F. Collins. The institute has held a designation as a U.S. Department of Education-funded Title VI National Resource Centers since 1958. It is one of 11 such centers at the Hamilton Lugar School.
“Robert Byrnes was one of our country’s most accomplished and influential scholars of Russia, Eastern Europe and Russian-American relations,” IU President Michael A. McRobbie said. “At the height of the Cold War, he played a central role in the opening of academic exchanges with the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. He also worked with leaders at Indiana University to develop one of the world’s most renowned centers on Russian and East European area studies.
“Professor Byrnes always closed his letters and phone calls with the motto ‘onward and upward.’ This generous gift will ensure the institute that now bears his name will continue onward and upward, preparing future leaders in business, education and public service to carry on his legacy and confront the critical issues facing this dynamic and strategically important region of the world.”
Byrnes also founded and led the Inter-University Committee on Travel Grants, which fostered an exchange of students and scholars between the United States and the Soviet Union, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria.
“Dr. Byrnes was a champion for scholarship and exchange between intellectuals from the United States and their counterparts in the Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe during the depths of the Cold War,” said former Ambassador Lee Feinstein, founding dean of the Hamilton Lugar School. “Under Professor Byrnes’ leadership, Indiana University emerged as one of the nation’s most important centers for Russian and East European Studies. This generous gift ensures that tradition of excellence will continue and grow stronger.”
Each year, the institute honors Byrnes’ legacy by awarding the Robert F. Byrnes Memorial Fellowship to an outstanding graduate student. This new gift will support funding for the Robert F. Byrnes Distinguished Scholar, which will be awarded to a leading scholar or practitioner specializing in Russian or East European history, politics and society. The recipient will also embody Byrnes’ values such as commitment to teaching, academic freedom and dedication to student success.
This gift counts toward the $3 billion campaign, For All: The Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign.
For All: The Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign is taking place on all IU-administered campuses, including IU Bloomington, IUPUI, IU East, IU Kokomo, IU Northwest, IU South Bend and IU Southeast. The campaign will conclude Sept. 30, 2020. To learn more about the campaign, its impact and how to participate, visit forall.iu.edu.
What they’re saying
“It is entirely fitting that the Russian and East European Institute be named for Dr. Byrnes. He was a great teacher and an inspiration. Those of us who studied under him – and the country many of us served – owe him a great debt of gratitude.” – Robert M. Gates, former U.S. secretary of defense.
“Bob Byrnes’ vision and determination established the Russian and East European Institute among the nation’s leading area studies institutions at a time of critical national need. By bringing exceptional, young, scholarly talent, a team of known leaders in the field and a commitment to teaching and research, REEI has established a living legacy of graduates that has enriched the academy, the ranks of our nation’s government and a wide range of institutions in the private sector.” – James F. Collins, former U.S. ambassador to Russia
“Naming REEI in honor Robert F. Byrnes is a fitting and appropriate tribute that reflects the impact of his service to Indiana University and the nation, and his imprint on Russian and East European studies. This extraordinary gift from the Byrnes family will make it possible for us to consider more deeply our role in the future of Russian and East European studies. The legacy of Robert F. Byrnes will set the tone for REEI and inspire our students, faculty and staff.” – Halina Goldberg, director of the IU Russian and East European Institute.