» Don Will Bust

“Let us cherish the soul of the university as reflected in these values:the humanity of each member of the community, the education of the whole person, the encouragement of our students to make our world one of peace, justice and global understanding even in the most difficult times.”

- Don Will

Critical Essay By
Dr. Nubar Hovsepian
Associate Professor
Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
View Bio

Don Will is the first and, so far, only Chapman faculty member in whose honor a bust has been erected on campus. He was admired not only for his many contributions to the university but for his gentleness of spirit and strong principles. Don joined the Chapman faculty in 1987 and was ensconced in political science and served as director of the Peace and Justice Program, which later emerged as the Peace Studies Program. He chaired the political science department for a number of years and was appointed Delp-Wilkinson Chair in Peace Studies. He also served as associate dean for Wilkinson College. Because he was among the most respected and trusted on campus and admired for his integrity and sense of justice, he was always appointed to various positions in groups, including the Long Range Planning Committee, Fish All Faiths Advisory Board and WASC Task Force. Additionally, he served on scholarship committees for students (Fulbright, Truman) and as the president of the Faculty Senate. Briefly, Don Will’s career at Chapman was marked by his commitment to a life of service.

Don received numerous awards for his service to the Chapman community and beyond. The awards he received include the Valerie Scudder Award for Outstanding Achievement (1990), Faculty Award in Advising (1996), Faculty award in Collaborative Teaching (1999), Faculty Excellence award in Service (2003) and the “Ambassador of Peace” from the Violence Prevention Coalition (2011).

We met in New York when we had yet to reach 30, and our first interlocutor was the late Eqbal Ahmad, who, among others, taught us about colonialism and liberation movements and the quest for freedom. In this connection, it would be fair to say that Don was most moved by two major issues of the day: South Africa and the struggle against apartheid there and the Palestinian people’s quest for self-determination. He was also quite engaged with the overall African movement for liberation, particularly in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau. When we chatted over our weekly lunches at the Jazzman patio, Don would often note how privileged he felt for being able to count oppositional luminaries like Edward W. Said, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and Cornell West, among others, as personal friends. He shared his friends with our students and community by bringing them to Chapman as part of his quest to promote and broaden the conversation on social justice, freedom and self-determination.

Don was integrally engaged with the international solidarity movement against apartheid. In 1977, Don met Prexy Nesbitt (became lifelong friends), who worked at the American Committee on Africa in NY. He worked with Prexy but was also, along with Ndathu (Leonora), heavily involved with the New York Committee To Oppose Bank Loans to South Africa. In historical terms, this committee serves as a model for the use of what today would be dubbed as boycott, divestment and sanctions, a mobilizing tool to assist activists for justice in the moral isolation of the likes of the apartheid regime. This effort actively sought the moral and political support of the African National Congress (ANC), and Johnny Makatini (Mfanafuthi), the ambassador of the ANC Mission to the UN, gave his blessings to the committee’s efforts.

Of equal importance was Don’s involvement with the sports boycott of South Africa, namely rugby. He worked closely with our mutual friend Richard Lapchick (he and I worked together at the UN Secretariat from 1982 to 1984) and with the South African noted poet Dennis Brutus, who also taught at Northwestern University outside of Chicago. From these experiences, Don learned that though the forces of colonial oppression had mighty armed forces, the grassroots movement power lay in occupying the moral high ground.

While in NY, Don’s work, with many people, in support of Palestinian rights (self-determination), helped found the beginnings of a solidarity movement seeking a just solution for Palestinians and Israelis. He organized, helped craft coalitions of differing voices to find common ground. Like others, he insisted that peace is made between enemies and not friends. Our national policy was to not talk to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). But President Carter’s speech in Clinton, Massachusetts, mentioned the need for a “Palestinian Homeland.” The US ambassador to the UN, Andrew Young, took that as an opening to meet with the PLO representative (Zuhdi Tarazi) at the UN, but in secret. Andy Young was fired. In contrast, Don and the peace activists made sure to appear in public with the PLO ambassador. Peace requires engagement with the other and not avoidance.

At his place of employment at 777 UN Plaza, across from the General Assembly Building on 44th street in NYC, Don organized educational seminars for church delegates coming from the American hinterland. He lured and coaxed his lefty friends to share their knowledge about the sources of peace and conflict in the Middle East and Africa and other places. Hundreds of activists experienced Don’s hospitality at 777 UN Plaza.

In 1982, all of us participated in the more than a million-person march demanding nuclear disarmament, but as the crowds marched and chanted, the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon was launched. Don played a key role in the founding of a coalition (Lebanon Emergency Committee) to stop the war. As a mediator who seeks reconciliation and peace, he, with others, introduced three simple objectives to unite the committee, which was composed of people from various walks of life, including Jews, Muslims and Christians. He helped the committee to arrive at a common ground from which we might be able to imagine conflict resolution, peace and justice in the Middle East and the US.

Edward Said’s description of his friend Eqbal Ahmad appropriately fits Don’s life perfectly. His life was “an epic and poetic one, full of wanderings, border crossings, and almost instinctive attraction to liberation movements, movements of the oppressed and the persecuted.” He was a man of energy, mobility and risk.

George Lamming, a writer from Trinidad, wrote a poignant novel titled In the Castle of My Skin. Don was comfortable in the castle of his skin; his life exemplifies the principled life of a multi-racial man who remained optimistic. Like Gramsci, he might have suffered from pessimism of the intellect, but he was always armed with optimism of the will.

This is what Don Will brought to Chapman.

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Don Will Bust


Allan Will

Donald and Leonora Will Chair in Peace Studies

Juan Rosillo

Campus Location
Sodaro Promenade, Orange Campus