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Etkin '81 Honors Prof. Gere with Scholarship

When alumni reflect on their time at UMass Amherst, they often think of the life-long friendships forged in dormitories and classrooms, late night study sessions, challenging classes, and even our award-winning dining halls. Or, if they are like Steve Etkin (’81, Political Science), they think of favorite professors. 

To commemorate his thirtieth reunion, Etkin – now a Senior Appraiser at Arbella Insurance – established the Edwin A. Gere, Jr. Scholarship in honor of professor emeritus Edwin Gere. Professor Gere taught at UMass Amherst from 1957 until his retirement in 1990. During his more than 30 years of teaching, he published more than 60 articles and books and taught many courses on state, urban, and metro politics; intergovernmental relations; comparative urban politics; and urban law.

“UMass offered me a foundation,” says Etkin. “I would not trade my liberal arts degree for anything. I am broadly educated in many disciplines, exposed to many subjects, and it has taught me to continue to educate myself throughout life.” This love of learning is something Professor Gere worked hard to instill in students.

Moreover, Etkin continues, “The reason it is so important to single out Dr. Gere is that not only was he a fine educator, but [he performed a] great service to his nation.” Indeed, the often modest Professor Gere has a long and distinguished military career. He was a B-24 pilot during WWII, and was recalled to the Berlin Airlift by President Harry S Truman, flying not only 184 missions in Berlin, but also founding “Operation Christmas” which gathered thousands of toys for the children of Berlin. He was awarded a purple heart as a member of the 494th Bomb Group; served as the principle subject in Richard Reeves’ history of the Berlin Airlift, Daring Young Men; and, recently, was a special guest of President Obama and Vice President Biden at a ceremony to honor Airlift Veterans.

“The ironic thing about Ed Gere is, in the thirty years I have known him, I only found out he was a veteran or Berlin Airlift hero by accident,” says Etkin. “He never mentioned it to his students, and does not mention himself once in his own book, The Unheralded.” Indeed, Professor Gere’s interest was always in learning about those around him – in particular, his students – more so than touting his own accomplishments or awards.

It was this desire to forge relationships with students that made him so deserving of a scholarship, Etkin says.  “He is the most courtly, magnificent gentleman I have known since my own Grampa.” Etkin sees this scholarship as one way to let Professor Gere know how large of an impact he had on him and to ensure future generations of students remember this great professor and military hero. The scholarship will be awarded yearly to political science students with an interest in state or local politics.

To contribute to the Edwin A Gere, Jr. scholarship, contact James Mallet, Director of Development, in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences: or 413.545.3945.

News Type: 

  • Alumni News