The Passing of Herbert London


Herbert London passed away on November 10; the National Association of Scholars mourns his passing.

Herb—his friends called him Herb, and NAS never had a better friend—Herb has been the heart of NAS. He was the first member of what would become the National Association of Scholars, when he was recruited by Steve Balch in 1982 to a fledgling group called the Campus Coalition for Democracy. That coalition became the NAS in 1987. Herb served as its first Chairman, a role to which he returned in 2012.

The title doesn’t do justice to all that Herb did for the NAS. At the very beginning, when he was serving as Dean of the Gallatin School at New York University, his support gave the new group immediate credibility. And his sheer confidence in the enterprise attracted a generation of nationally known scholars to the work. Herb helped define what we fight for, and his nearly thirty books and innumerable articles carried our message across the nation.

Herb had astonishing energy and a keen sense of how to build and sustain a not-for-profit focused on reforming the academy. He provided wise counsel at every step. He also had the gift of deep friendship. Everyone who worked for the NAS leaned on him, and he stands unsurpassed as the model scholar/citizen.

His life was large. Herb rose from humble beginnings in Brooklyn to attend Columbia University on an athletic scholarship. After graduating he was offered a contract for a professional basketball team. At that point he had already made several hit rock-and-roll records. But he put those possible careers aside to pursue a scholarly vocation, eventually founding the Gallatin School at NYU. In 1989 he ran for Mayor of New York, in 1990 for Governor, and in 1994 for State Comptroller. He served as President of the Hudson Institute from 1997 to 2011, and then founded the London Center for Policy Research in 2013. He was a public intellectual in print and on the screen, and much, much more. Herb was a man in full.

At Columbia, Herb was a student of Jacques Barzun. Barzun gave to Herb the scholar’s love of Western Civilization—pure joy in learning about our past; dedication to seeking out the truth; scholarly rigor; and inspirational teaching, to pass on that knowledge and that love. Herb was a worthy student of Barzun, and someone we looked to as our own teacher. The NAS’s mission is to preserve the ideals that Herb so effortlessly embodied.

Herb was irreplaceable and we owe him more than we can say.

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