Indiana Statehouse honors an IU ambassador, Patrick O’Meara, along with an Olympian

Patrick O'Meara, left, showed Liberian President Ellen John Sirleaf part of the Lilly Library collection during her visit to IU in 2008.

Patrick O’Meara, left, showed Liberian President Ellen John Sirleaf part of the Lilly Library collection during her visit to IU in 2008.

For nearly half a century, Patrick O’Meara has traveled around the world as an ambassador for Indiana University and the values of higher education in general.

O’Meara has met presidents, including Nelson Mandela, in his native country of South Africa, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman elected as president of Liberia or of any African country. He’s spent time with kings and queens, such as the Spanish royal family.

As IU’s dean for international programs, O’Meara oversaw many externally funded exchange and technical assistance programs for the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development and a variety of foreign governments, international businesses and foundations.

These programs have provided training and institution building assistance to Angola, Burmese refugees, Indonesia, Macedonia, Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and South Africa.

For about two decades, O’Meara guided the university’s activities around the world and helped raise its international profile. In recognition of his many efforts, IU President Michael A. McRobbie in 2011 bestowed on O’Meara the President’s Medal for Excellence.

On Monday, O’Meara again was at a seat of power — the Indiana Statehouse — where he was honored with a resolution by legislators. During the ceremony, he said his thoughts that day went back to another IU internationalist, the late Herman B Wells.

“It goes back to Wells’ idea of bringing the world to Indiana and bringing the world to our students, and in some way I hope that this accomplished some of that,” O’Meara said. “He wanted to bring the world, through art, through music, through languages, to the students from the small towns of Indiana. I felt at the Statehouse that it was an affirmation of that in many ways.”

The Senate resolution, introduced by IU alumnus and State Sen. Mike Delph of Westfield, also recognizes O’Meara’s “profound, worldwide impact” as an educator and scholar.

Patrick O'Meara, center, listens as Sen. Mike Delph reads the resolution.

Patrick O’Meara, center, listens as Sen. Mike Delph reads the resolution.

“Throughout his tenure at Indiana University, Dr. O’Meara led the effort to create the university’s first international strategic plan, one of the first such plans in the nation,” the resolution noted. “For his dedication to international partnerships and higher education, Dr. O’Meara has been recognized across the globe.”

Interestingly, another state ambassador, Indiana’s lone Sochi Olympic medalist Nick Goepper, was honored in a similar ceremony immediately after O’Meara was recognized.

O’Meara was pleased to see many old friends and colleagues at the ceremony, including former House speaker Patrick Bauer, who has traveled to Asia with O’Meara, and Delph, who was one of his former students.

O’Meara came to IU in the 1960s, earned his doctorate at IU and was a political science professor and a dean and vice president. As IU’s first vice president for international affairs, he led the creation in 2008 of the International Strategic Plan, which focuses on increasing IU’s presence throughout the world, strengthening its strategic international partnerships, attracting new international students and ensuring that IU students are prepared for the global economy

A renowned scholar of international development, comparative politics and African politics, in particular, and former director of the African Studies Program at IU Bloomington, O’Meara has published a number of books, including the classic textbook Africa, a standard text used by nearly 100 colleges and universities around the world.

Timothy J. Roemer, former congressman, U.S. ambassador to India and 9/11 Commission member, and former Sen. Richard Lugar have presented the Patrick O’Meara International Lecture at IU Bloomington.

Later this spring, Lee Feinstein, former U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Poland and the founding dean of IU’s School of Global and International Studies, will present the O’Meara lecture. Look for more information about that soon.