Monday, August 29, 2011

George N Shuster and the early years of UNESCO

George N Shuster was a member of the delegations organizing UNESCO in London in 1945 and Paris in 1946,  was an early member of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO and served as its Chairman (1953-54). He represented the United States on the UNESCO Executive Board (1958-63). He was also the author of UNESCO: Assessment and Promise, a Policy Book published by the Council on Foreign Relations in 1963.

The National Commission is something of an anomaly in that no other UN specialized agency asks its members to establish such commissions. One of the precursors to UNESCO was the International Institute of Intellectual Co-operation established under the League of Nations. That Institute established a structure of committees for intellectual cooperation in various countries, including in the United States. (Since the United States was not a member of the League of Nations, the U.S. Committee for Intellectual Cooperation was privately organized and funded, what would now be called a non-governmental organization.) Thus when UNESCO was established the model of national committees to promote intellectual cooperation was folded into its Constitution in the form of national commissions for UNESCO.

In its earliest days the General Conference of UNESCO was seen by some as a place in which intellectuals from member states would come together representing their countries to give direction to UNESCO's programs and guidance to its secretariat. For various reasons, representation on the General Conference quickly came to be dominated by government diplomats, but the Executive Board continued for some years to serve as a body of intellectuals giving advice to UNESCO; the first U.S. members of the Executive Board included a Librarian of Congress, three college presidents and the dean of a graduate school. George Shuster was one of the last of the breed and after his time the Executive Board too has came to be populated by professional diplomats.

George Shuster served in the Army in World War I. He received his BA from Notre Dame in 1915, a Certificat d’Aptitude in 1919 from the University of Poitiers in France, and a Ph.D. from Colombia University in 1940. He also did graduate work at the Hochschule fur Poiltik in Berlin in 1930-31.

He served as an associate editor of Commonweal (an American journal of opinion edited by lay Catholics) from 1925 to 1929, and as managing editor from 1929 to 1937. From 1937 to 1939, Shuster was a Fellow of the Social Research Council of Columbia University and received a Carnegie Corporation grant to study the Weimar Republic and the Center Party.

When Shuster returned from Germany in July 1939, he was named Dean of Hunter College and became Acting-President in September 1939. Dr. George Nauman Shuster was inaugurated as the fifth president of Hunter College of the City of New York on October 10, 1940 and served until August 31, 1960.

Following World War II he served as Chairman of the Historical Commission sent by the Army to Germany in 1945, and as a member of various Enemy Alien Boards established by the Department of Justice. From June 1950 to December 1951, Dr. Shuster was on leave of absence from Hunter College and accepted the assignment as Land Commissioner for Bavaria, Germany. Dr. Shuster served as representative of the high commissioner to the Bavarian government, and was responsible for the promotion of U.S. policies in the fields of politics, economics, education and jurisprudence. He also served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the International Institute of Education.

Following his retirement from Hunter College in 1960, Dr. Shuster became an assistant to the president of the University of Notre Dame and professor emeritus of English at the South Bend campus. Dr. Shuster also assumed the directorship of the Center for the Study of Man in Contemporary Society
until his retirement in 1971.

He was decorated by the governments of France, Austria and Germany and received many honorary doctorates and other awards. He was a prolific author, publishing books of German history and Catholic thought and history as well as on other topics.

Dr. George Nauman Shuster died on January 25, 1977.

Dr. Shuster was perhaps prototypical of the distinguished intellectuals who lent their efforts to the U.S. government during and after World War II, notably in the conceptualization and creation of UNESCO. He continued efforts at international cooperation through UNESCO for decades while busy as an educator, educational administrator and author.