You Can't Judge a Book ...

When she’s not teaching sociology, it’s no secret that Professor Bettie Smolansky moonlights in another field. She has collaborated with her husband, Oles, a professor of political science at Lehigh University, on a well-received study called The USSR and Iraq: The Soviet Quest for Influence (1991). (Actually, she says, their work is interdisciplinary because she inevitably thinks like a sociologist.) It received the 1992 Marshall Shulman Prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies.

Their most recent project, The Lost Equilibrium: International Relations in the Post-Soviet Era (Lehigh University Press, 2000) had a more personal motivation. It is a festschrift (commemorative volume of writings) to honor their longtime friend Alvin Z. Rubinstein, a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, before his retirement.

Smolansky is one of the most honored teachers at Moravian. She has spent her entire career here, starting with her appointment to the sociology department in 1964. She has been assistant dean of the College (1980-82), twice a member of the College Board of Trustees, chair of her department (1991-92 through 1997-98), interim dean of the faculty (1998-99) and dean for academic affairs (2000-01). She won the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1978.

For the Rubinstein tribute, the Smolanskys planned well in advance. Starting in 1994, they began soliciting essays and articles from colleagues in the field. But no matter what the Bible has to say on the subject, to ask does not always mean that ye shall receive. Some writers were courteous enough to request an extension, but others had to be reminded and scolded and outright nagged, until one or two had to be dropped from the final contents. “They don’t seem to realize: This stuff has a shelf-life!” Smolansky said.

The result was that their tribute, which was intended to herald Rubinstein’s retirement, barely made it into print before his last term of classes in the fall of 2001. The Smolanskys and some of Rubinstein’s former students held a reception for the book and its honoree in late October.

And just in time, too, for there’s a sad end to this story. Rubinstein had a stroke just hours after teaching his last class in December and died a few days later. His friends, including the Smolanskys, take comfort in the fact that he died knowing how much his professional associates and the students whose careers he had helped foster admired and respected him.

If the occasion arises, will there be another such project? “Never again!” Smolansky said. “Except for already published articles.”