Landrum Rymer Bolling


Honorary Degree (1974)
Doctor of Laws
Location: Indianapolis
Presenter: John W. Ryan


Landrum Rymer Bolling was born in Parksville, Tennessee on November 13, 1913. He received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Tennessee in 1933, and the University of Chicago awarded him the degree of Master of Arts in 1938.

Early in his career, during the 1930's, his journalistic activities included the editing of weekly newspapers and writing for daily newspapers. He also served as a foreign correspondent with assignments in Rome, Vienna and Berlin. During the 1940's and WWII, he was a war correspondent with Tito's Partisans in the Mediterranean Theater, covering the liberation of Sarajevo from Hitler's occupation army. He also held postwar assignments in Berlin and Central Europe. To date, he has maintained his participation in the field of international relations, continuing to write and to lecture on improved understanding of world affairs, especially in the Middle East.

His academic career began with the appointment as an instructor of political science at Brown University from 1938 to 1940. He later rose from instructor to the rank of associate professor at Beloit College, and he joined the faculty of Earlham College as a professor of political science in 1948. He became General Secretary of Earlham in 1955, and was elevated to the Presidency of that institution in 1958, a position he held until 1973. In 1982, he served for one year as research professor of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. During his 15-year tenure at the Quaker college, Earlham became nationally known, gained a Phi Beta Kappa chapter and hired its first African-American faculty member, William Cousins. Bolling carefully cultivated donors, gaining a Kresge Foundation grant and several gifts from Indianapolis philanthropist Eli Lilly. Off-campus and international programs blossomed under his leadership. Facilities added to the campus during Bolling's administration include Lilly Library, Hoerner Residence Hall, Runyan Center, and Noyes and Stanley Halls. After resigning from the presidency, Bolling was named an Honorary Lifetime Trustee of Earlham.

Following his term at Earlham, Bolling served as president of the Lilly Endowment (1973-78), one of the largest grant making organizations in the world. He then took on the role of chief executive officer of the Council on Foundations (1978-82). In each of those capacities he helped to direct hundreds of millions of dollars toward scholarly and scientific research at dozens of American colleges and universities.

Bolling has been affiliated with Mercy Corps, an international humanitarian agency, for nearly 30 years - much of the organization's history. He has served in various capacities, including director-at-large and most recently, as senior advisor. His leadership in education has been significant, and has included service as president or board chairman of the Indiana Conference of Higher Education, Independent Colleges and Universities of Indiana, Great Lakes Colleges Association, and the National Council of Protestant Colleges and Universities. He also served on the boards of the Association of American Colleges and the National Council of Independent Colleges and Universities. Bolling has written or co-authored several books, including Search for Peace in the Middle East, This is Germany, Private Foreign Aid, Reporters Under Fire, and Conflict Resolution: Track Two Diplomacy.

Over the past 35 years, Bolling's expertise has been repeatedly drawn upon regarding the study of the Arab-Israeli conflict and he became personally acquainted with a number of the leading political personages on both sides. In fact, five U.S. presidential administrations have consulted Bolling on issues in the Middle East and other troubled regions. Beginning in the administration of President Jimmy Carter, when direct official communication between Washington and the PLO was forbidden, he was one of the informal, "non-official" links entrusted with delivering messages between the White House and the State Department and top Palestinian leaders. He was also a member of the President's Commission on the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of the United Nations in 1970.

Bolling has received more than 30 honorary doctorates from U.S. and foreign universities. His alma mater, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, awarded him with its prestigious Founders Medal in 1998. In June of 2000 he was honored, along with Senator George Mitchell, with a "Peacemaker/Peace Builder" award by the National Peace Foundation. As a tribute to Bolling's leadership, Earlham named its new social sciences building, the Landrum Bolling Center for Interdisciplinary Studies and Social Sciences, for him in 2002. In 2005, Bolling received the James L. Fisher Award for Distinguished Service to Education by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). As of October 2011, at the age of nearly 98, Bolling continues his active involvement in global peace and justice issues. Currently, he serves as a senior advisor to Mercy Corps, working out of the agency's Washington, DC office, on matters of policy and program development; serves as president of Pax World Service (a Mercy Corps affiliate that promotes citizen diplomacy); and is a Senior Fellow at the Center for International Policy in Washington.