Jon Western, 1963-2022

Our colleague, professor and dear friend, Jon Western, died suddenly

Dear colleagues,

It is with the utmost sorrow that I write to say that Mount Holyoke lost an exceptional scholar, teacher and administrator yesterday. Our colleague, professor and dear friend, Jon Western, Carol Hoffmann Collins '63 Professor of International Relations and Five College Professor of International Relations, died suddenly, leaving behind his wife Jenny and their two sons, Charley and Alex, to whom he was utterly devoted.

There are simply no words to describe how profoundly many of us will feel this loss. Jon’s talents, commitments and warmth had a profound impact on many of us, and on generations of colleagues, students and alums.

Jon joined Mount Holyoke in 2000, and served with distinction as dean of faculty and vice president for academic affairs from 2016 to 2020. He was the author of “Selling Intervention and War: The Presidency, the Media, and the American Public” (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005) and co-editor of both “The International Community and State-building: Getting Its Act Together?” (Routledge, 2012) and “Global Giant: Is China Changing the Rules of the Game” (Palgrave, 2009). Jon was passionately at work on a biography of Dorothy Fosdick, titled “The Woman in the Room: Dorothy Fosdick and the Rise of American Power in the 20th Century.” 

Jon earned his BA from Macalester College, and went on to earn an MPP from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. from Columbia University. Before joining Mount Holyoke, Jon was a Peace Scholar-in-residence and the coordinator of the Dayton Upgrade Project at the United States Institute of Peace. He also served as a Balkans analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the U.S. Department of State. He previously taught at Columbia University and George Washington University.

Recently, in a tribute to his commitments, scholarship and integrity, and with the help of six Mount Holyoke students, he uncovered the prominent Christian conservative lawyer Michael P. Farris had played a key role in the lawsuit by the Texas Attorney General and others looking to overturn the 2020 election. The revelations made the national news.

Jon leaves a lasting legacy at Mount Holyoke and will be deeply missed as a cherished member of our community. More details regarding plans to honor Jon’s memory and accomplishments will be shared as soon as they are available. Counseling resources are available for any students and employees needing support at this time.

On behalf of the entire Mount Holyoke community, I extend our heartfelt condolences to Jenny, Charley and Alex, and to their wider family and many friends.

In shared grief and sorrow,


Update: A celebration of life for Jon Western will be held on April 30, 2022 at 3:30 in Abbey Memorial Chapel, with a reception in the Living Room at the Willits-Hallowell Center to follow. Please join Jon's family to celebrate his life and work.