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Northeastern remembers Bruce Wallin

For some, Bruce Wallin was a man who made topics such as Amer­ican gov­ern­ment and bud­geting “come to life” in the class­room. For others, he was a man with an infec­tious laugh, a pas­sion for dis­cussing pol­i­tics or a rep­u­ta­tion for “calling it like he sees it.”

But for all who knew him, Wallin was a pas­sionate teacher who both demanded a great deal from his stu­dents and cared deeply about them — as he did his col­leagues, friends and family.

The North­eastern Uni­ver­sity com­mu­nity is remem­bering Wallin, asso­ciate pro­fessor of polit­ical sci­ence, who passed away on Dec. 29 after a short battle with cancer. A memo­rial ser­vice for the North­eastern com­mu­nity will be held Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 3:30 p.m. in the Curry Stu­dent Center Ball­room.

Since joining the fac­ulty in 1990, Wallin made an enor­mous impact on the uni­ver­sity. He instructed hun­dreds of stu­dents in the fields of Amer­ican pol­i­tics, public finance and bud­geting, and his ded­i­ca­tion to the craft of teaching — com­bined with his vibrant per­son­ality — made his classes leg­endary. Twice, he was rec­og­nized by his stu­dents and col­leagues with the university’s Excel­lence in Teaching Award.

“Bruce always put stu­dents first,” said Chris Bosso, pro­fessor and asso­ciate dean of the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs. “He cared deeply about their suc­cess, and he poured immense energy and time into ensuring that his stu­dents learned what he felt they needed to know to thrive in their careers, and as people.”

Wallin worked with stu­dents each year to apply for the Truman Schol­ar­ship — a pres­ti­gious honor rec­og­nizing stu­dents with excep­tional lead­er­ship poten­tial who are com­mitted to careers in gov­ern­ment, the non­profit sector or other public ser­vice. He also led stu­dent trips to Japan and was instru­mental in set­ting up a part­ner­ship with Meiji Uni­ver­sity in Tokyo.

Wallin’s schol­ar­ship also earned praise in aca­d­emic and public affairs cir­cles. His book on fed­eral rev­enue sharing received an award from the Amer­ican Polit­ical Sci­ence Asso­ci­a­tion, and he authored insightful studies on gov­ern­ment finance for the Brook­ings Insti­tu­tion and Twen­tieth Cen­tury Fund.

North­eastern polit­ical sci­ence pro­fessor and close friend John Portz gave the eulogy at Wallin’s funeral ser­vice in Boston last week. Portz, who worked as his teaching assis­tant at the Uni­ver­sity of Wisconsin-​​Madison, said teaching was Wallin’s true calling in life.

“Bruce touched the lives of so many stu­dents, not only when they were in his class­room, but well beyond,” he said. “Bruce kept in touch with so many stu­dents. He wanted them to suc­ceed.”

He shared many of Wallin’s quotes, including: “If there is no wind, row.”

“Bruce would help stu­dents ‘to row,’ but he knew they needed to reach those heights with their own efforts,” he said.

One of those stu­dents is doc­toral can­di­date Chris Chanya­sulkit. She also worked as Wallin’s teaching assis­tant for three semes­ters, and recalled how he could make any topic inter­esting in class. Chanya­sulkit called him a mentor, noting how he not only helped her secure an intern­ship in U.S. Sen. John Kerry’s office but also reg­u­larly talked about the impor­tance of family.

“He was so much more to me than just a teacher or pro­fessor. He was a friend,” said Chanya­sulkit.

John Tobin, Northeastern’s vice pres­i­dent of city and com­mu­nity rela­tions and a former Boston city coun­cilor, recalled that when he first began reaching out to Jamaica Plain res­i­dents in his dis­trict while run­ning for office as a 24-​​year-​​old, Wallin was one of the first people to call him back.

They ulti­mately formed a strong bond that extended beyond Tobin’s office in City Hall, where sev­eral of Wallin’s stu­dents worked on co-​​op.

“He was a great friend and a great mentor to his stu­dents,” Tobin said. “His name will live on for a long time at North­eastern and in Boston.”

– by Greg St. Martin

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