Richard Challener, a specialist in American diplomatic and military history and a professor at Princeton for 51 years, died Sept. 23 after a long battle with cancer. He was 79.
"Dick Challener was a splendid and supportive colleague, a devoted institutional citizen and a wonderfully stimulating teacher who engaged, challenged and widened the intellectual and personal horizons of generations of Princeton students," said Nancy Weiss Malkiel, professor of history and dean of the college.
"Losing him at a moment when America's relationship to the rest of the world is of such pressing public concern is especially poignant; his warmth and humanity, his balanced judgment and wise insight, will be sorely missed," she said.
For more than a decade, Challener and Malkiel taught "U.S. History from 1945 to the Present." The course was extremely popular, regularly attracting more than 300 students.
A member of Princeton's class of 1944, Challener's own studies were disrupted by the events of history. He served in the U. S. Army from 1943 to 1946 in the 102nd Infantry, Company A, 1st Battalion. He saw combat in the European theater and was awarded the Combat Infantry Medal and the European Theatre Medal. In 1984, he was awarded the Distinguished Civilian Service Award by the U.S. Army.
After the war, Challener returned to Princeton to graduate in 1947. He joined the history department as an instructor in 1949 and earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1952. He became a professor in 1964 and retired in 1993, but continued to teach for another seven years as a professor emeritus. He taught courses in American diplomatic history, 20th-century American history and Canadian history.
Challener twice chaired the history department and he also chaired the Committee on Canadian Studies. From 1958 to 1966, he was assistant and then associate dean of the college, and from 1986 to 1988 he was clerk of the faculty.
In honor of Challener's service to Princeton, flags on campus were lowered to half-staff for three days following his death.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent to the Princeton University Department of History to support undergraduate thesis research in American diplomatic history and Canadian studies.
A memorial service for Challener is being planned for 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 27, in the Princeton University Chapel.
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Contact: Marilyn Marks (609) 258-3601