From ISA E-Newsletter, Vol. 30, No.9, September 2006

Deborah J. "Misty" Gerner, died peacefully at her home in rural Douglas County, Kansas on June 19, 2006 at the age of fifty after a long struggle with metastatic breast cancer. At the time of her death Dr. Gerner was a professor of political science at the University of Kansas and Treasurer of the ISA, a position she had held since 2002. In addition, Dr. Gerner served the ISA as Vice President from 1997-98, and as a member of the Governing Council during most years since the early 1990s. At various times, she also served on the Finance Committee, the Long-Range Planning Committee, the Nominating Committee, and on various book and paper awards committees, and as chair of the Professional Rights and Responsibilities Committee, co-chair of the ad-hoc Committee on the Future of ISA, chair of the Foreign Policy Analysis Section, and last, but certainly not least, co-conference program chair (with Philip Schrodt) for the 1995 annual meeting. Misty earned the ISA's gratitude for this extraordinary level of service as the first recipient (with Robert Kudrle) of the Ladd Hollist Service Award (2005) - given in recognition of a member's significant volunteer contribution to the ISA. In the same year, Misty was also the first recipient of the Susan Northcutt Award. This award, made by the Women's Caucus for International Studies, honors an individual who has actively worked toward the recruiting and advancing of women and other minorities in the profession and "whose spirit is inclusive, generous and conscientious" -- words that so aptly captures Misty's spirit. In the words of ISA Executive Director Tom Volgy, "Misty did just about everything for the ISA."

At the University of Kansas, Misty taught undergraduate and graduate courses in international relations and foreign policy and in comparative politics. She is credited with helping turn international relations into a high profile and active program. University Chancellor Robert Hemenway's tribute to Misty cites her as "an extraordinary scholar and teacher who embodied a deep passion for her field of study and an equally strong ability to engage and inspire her students." Elaine Sharp, chair and professor of political science at Kansas University, writes "Misty brought an incredible level of intensity and passion to all that she did ~W but most especially to her teaching. She consistently focused on her students as individuals, seeking out their talent and developing it and in the process forging close bonds that, in many cases, have led to continuing contact long after students have graduated from KU." A member of the KU Women's Hall of Fame, Misty received many teaching awards including a Kemper Award for teaching excellence, and the Byron T. Shutz Award for distinguished teaching. Misty brought her passion for teaching to different places including the American University in Cairo and Birzeit University on the West Bank. She used her experiences to develop and publish several teaching cases based on primary sources. At the time of her death she was still developing new courses including one on Palestinians and Israelis.

Misty spent more than 25 years studying, visiting and living in the Middle East -- her last trip took place only a few months before her death and immediately following brain surgery. She was an expert on the Arab-Israeli conflict and Palestinian nationalism and she twice interviewed Yassir Arafat, former chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Her publications, many of which were co-authored with her husband Philip Schrodt, appeared in the Journal of Conflict Resolution, the American Political Science Review, International Studies Quarterly, Arab Studies Quarterly and many others. She was the author of two books: One Land, Two Peoples: The Conflict Over Palestine (1994) and Understanding the Contemporary Middle East (2000, co-edited with Jillian Schwedler), the second edition of which was a Choice Outstanding Academic Book for 2004.

But Misty was more than a scholar with a long list of publications. Her scholarship epitomized the best of scholar activism. Going beyond the boundaries of traditional academic scholarship, Misty traveled to Israel and Palestine in 2002 as part of a team from the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) to gather testimonies from leaders, settlers and refugees on both sides of the conflict. The resulting publication by team members, When the Rain Returns: Toward Justice and Reconciliation in Palestine and Israel is a moving account of these stories. In the words of AFSC Board of Directors' Chair, Paul Lacey "these authors have a heart to help...It has taken a great measure of intellectual and spiritual energy to keep faith with the stories they have heard." Helena Cobban, global-affairs columnist for The Christian Science Monitor and Al-Hayat, one of the co-authors of When the Rain Returns, writes "The experience of traveling with [Misty] in Israel and Palestine made me understand the depth of the esteem in which she was held by scholars and peace activists there. All of her scholarship was inspired by her devotion to Quaker principles of peace and justice." This was noted by another award, of which Misty was again the first recipient -- the 2004 Howard Richards Ethical Construction Award for combining academic and activist work for peace from her alma mater Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana from which she graduated in 1977 with double majors in peace and conflict studies and in religion.

The way in which Misty lived her professional and personal life is a lesson for all of us. Harriet Lerner, clinical psychologist and best-selling author sums this up so well: "Misty moved toward the center of things with enormous passion, vitality and courage. She was so brave, so loving and so generous. She was, for me, a teacher in the best sense of the word."

What is perhaps most remarkable is that many of Misty's accomplishments were achieved during her eleven year battle with a serious illness. Those of us who were privileged to know about her struggles through the Misty email list, on which Misty documented, with courage, honesty and humor, her heroic fight against breast cancer and its debilitating treatments over the past eleven years, could only begin to imagine how difficult it must have been to give so much to her students, her scholarship, her activism, and to the ISA. Misty gave the Treasurer's report to the last ISA Governing Council in severe pain which forced her to leave the conference the next day; she was an active participant in the day's deliberations asking, as she always did, the most insightful and penetrating questions, never being satisfied until they were adequately resolved.

I consider it an enormous privilege to have known Misty as a colleague and a friend. She set an example for all of us -- as a scholar, an activist, a teacher, a generous giver of professional service and especially as a friend who, in spite of her own illness, always managed to make time to help others. No one in the ISA better embodies responsible scholarship, the theme that I have chosen for the ISA Annual Meeting next year. Misty's responsibility and caring for her students, for her colleagues and for the subjects of her research in the Middle East - people about whom she cared so deeply - was legendary. There will be a Roundtable honoring Misty at the Annual Meeting next March in Chicago. A memorial service will be held on September 17 at 3pm at the Ecumenical Christian Ministries at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

J. Ann Tickner