CEU Remembers First President and Rector Alfred Stepan

September 28, 2017

Alfred Stepan, CEU's first President and Rector, renowned comparative political scientist and most recently Wallace S. Sayre Professor of Government at Columbia University, passed away this week at the age of 81. He is survived by his wife, Nancy Leys Stepan, who played a key role in founding CEU's Department of Gender Studies, as well as two children and seven grandchildren.

 "The at times testing but always inspiring history of CEU proudly records Alfred Stepan as its first Rector, leading the University in a time of turbulence and promise from early 1994 until 1996. Al’s vision and support were cornerstones during CEU’s formative period, and from his participation in the meetings with New York State Educational Authorities even before he became rector, to the enormous success of those negotiations, which finally granted full legal status to CEU in Hungary and Poland, he played a leading role," CEU President and Rector Michael Ignatieff said. "Few who witnessed or saw the photographic record of the June 1994 Accreditation Ceremony here in Budapest can forget Al lifting the Accreditation Certificate in triumph, one of our landmark moments."

Stepan became President and Rector of CEU in 1994 following William Newton-Smith's tenure as Chair of the Executive Committee of the university. He presided over the expansion of CEU, including the acquisition and opening of the Nador utca 9 building in Budapest in 1995, and the launch of the Program on Gender and Culture, which later became the region's first Department of Gender Studies, in 1996. Stepan was succeeded by Josef Jarab in 1997.


Stepan and CEU Founder George Soros ceremonially open the Nador utca 9 building in 1995. Photo: CEU.

Stepan was both a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the British Academy, a rare dual honor. He was also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2012 he received the International Political Science Association’s Karl Deutsch Award for comparative research and theory.


CEU's First President and Rector Alfred Stepan. Photo: CEU.

Stepan earned a BA at the University of Notre Dame in 1958 and an MA at Balliol College, Oxford, in 1960. After leaving Oxford Stepan served in the U.S. Marine Corps and then worked as a special correspondent for the Economist and, later, as a policy analyst for the Rand Corporation. He earned a PhD in political science from Columbia in 1969 and began teaching at Yale the next year.