Donation supports faculty to inspire generations of engaged citizens

Shana Kushner Gadarian has been named the first Merle Goldberg Fabian Professor of Excellence in Citizenship and Critical Thinking, a position funded through a generous gift from her namesake.

Shana Kushner Gadarian

Inspired by her own experiences with ‘the best teachers,’ alumnus Merle Goldberg Fabian ’59 has donated $3 million to fund a chair that champions responsible citizenship and educates students on the importance of critical thinking in the service of democratic values.

Gadarian is a professor and chair of political science, as well as a senior research associate at the Campbell Public Affairs Institute. “She is a perfect fit for this role as an outstanding teacher for undergraduate and graduate students who provides extensive mentorship and support,” says Dean David M. Van Slyke. “She is also among the most productive and influential scholars on the Maxwell faculty.”

Gadarian’s research is frequently cited in outlets such as The New York Times and The Washington Post, most recently related to the impact of partisanship on pandemic-related health attitudes and behaviors. For her scholarship in this field, she was awarded a prestigious Carnegie Fellowship in 2021, the so-called “smart prize” that offers up to $200,000 for a major book or study on a pressing societal issue. Gadarian is the third Maxwell professor to receive this award in recent years.

The chair’s focus on democratic citizenship is particularly exciting for Gadarian, as it’s a frequent theme in his political science classes. Simply put, it refers to the duty to be knowledgeable and active in society.

“I am truly honored to have been chosen as the first recipient of this chair,” says Gadarian. “This kind of investment is vitally important to Maxwell as we work with students to deepen citizenship and civic engagement at this very important moment in American politics.”

Fabian’s donation supports one of the Maxwell School’s top fundraising priorities for the Forever Orange campaign, “Attracting, Hiring and Retaining Great Teachers.” Donations that support faculty, particularly in the form of scholarships and endowed chairs, strengthen the school’s ability to deliver faculty excellence in all disciplines.

Gadarian follows a legacy of professors who inspired Fabian as an undergraduate student in the 1950s. Fabian, who earned a bachelor’s degree in American Studies, credits them with nurturing his interest in public affairs and citizens’ obligations to be informed and active participants in democracy. She took courses in American history, government, and literature and was selected to spend a semester studying in Washington, D.C., where she met Hubert Humphrey and other government leaders.

Fabian Merle Goldberg

Merle Goldberg Fabien ’59

“I was a good high school student, but I had no vision,” recalls Fabian, who traveled from her home in Maryland to enroll in college in 1955. classes with professors who had a worldview, who were so well-educated and incredibly articulate, they inspired me. They had a great idea of ​​what the responsibility of government and the responsibility of citizens should be. I learned not to just accept what I heard without challenging it in some way.

Fabian went on to earn a graduate degree in library science from the Catholic University of America and held senior positions at the Canadian Embassy Library, the San Francisco Public Library, and the Government Affairs Institute.

His brother, Leslie H. Goldberg, served as president of their family business, Bowl America Inc., until his death in 2019. For the past two years, his sister has focused on building a family foundation and made donations in his name to his alma mater, the University of Virginia.

This inspired her to create an endowment in her own alma mater while she is alive and able to see it benefit Maxwell’s faculty and students. She was delighted to learn that Gadarian had been selected. “The Dean assured me that Professor Gadarian is exactly the kind of researcher I had hoped to see in this position,” she says.

Fabian believes the need for critical thinkers is more important than ever. Her conversations with Van Slyke convinced her that today’s students could fill that need when inspired, as she was, by dynamic teachers.

“I’m so encouraged that our students really want to make a difference,” says Van Slyke. “Merle believes, as I do, that teachers can do a lot to expose students to a range of ideas that they may not have thought of or experienced. The most influential professors combine research, teaching and political relevance to send their students out into the world to become constructive forces for change.

Gadarian will hold the professorship for five years. Van Slyke is confident that she will be an inspirational force that can influence careers and change lives. He notes that “almost all students at Syracuse University take a social science course at Maxwell where they are also encouraged to challenge ideas, tackle problems, and become a force for positive change.”

To learn how you can get involved with Forever Orange: The Campaign for Syracuse University, which is striving to raise $1.5 billion in philanthropic support to improve academic excellence and the student experience for all, visit syracuse.edu /foreverorange.