WHEN ROSS BERKES and Robert Dockson took Claude Buss international relations seminars in the late 1930s, they gathered around a big table in Old College.
It was not a teacher-student relationship, recalls Buss, who helped establish the School of International Relations under then-president Rufus von KleinSmid. It was people trying to get at the truth. When you can forget titles and labels, you can have a meeting of the minds.
Decades have passed since Old College was leveled to make way for Taper Hall, and IR seminars have more than doubled in size. But egalitarian meetings of the mind still continue, particularly in case studies courses, where students inhabit a decision-making situation, coming up with possible solutions to real life crises in international affairs, says Steven L. Lamy, an associate professor of international relations and a pioneer in case study applications in his field.
This fall Lamys case study classes got a boost when Buss, Berkes and Dockson gathered to dedicate a new classroom designed for the instructional approach that emphasizes student participation.
Over the summer, crews had removed nearly 100 conventional chair-desks and installed six long tables and 55 chairs that swivel so that students can break into small discussion groups or turn to face peers when they contribute to class.
The professor becomes the facilitator, rather than the sole source of information or expertise, Lamy says.
The classroom was dedicated to Berkes, who succeeded Buss as director of the school. From 1946 to 1981, Berkes taught international relations at USC. Along the way, he earned a reputation as a master teacher, one who formed close associations with his students that continued throughout their careers.
Dockson a former dean of the School of Business Administration and a long-time friend of the School of International Relations, where he received a master of foreign service degree in 1939 picked up most of the tab for the renovation, with the schools alumni picking up the rest.
Dockson decided to support the renovation after hearing Lamy describe his vision at a 1994 alumni dinner honoring Berkes. The only condition on his gift was that the room be named after his former classmate.
A Kindness Repaid
IT WAS CHRISTMAS, 1937, two years after Claude Buss had been hired by Rufus von KleinSmid to serve as the second director of USCs School of International Relations. Japan had just widened its invasion of China to the Yangtze River, culminating in what came to be known as the Nankin Massacre. The USC student body sympathized with the Chinese, as did Buss, who had spent six years in China. Still, his heart went out to two of his Japanese graduate students: Susumu Nikaido 41 and Hideshi Maki 42. Buss invited them for Christmas dinner, and the two students quickly made friends with his two young daughters, who were crazy about Chinese checkers. They were so happy, Buss recalls. I can still see them playing on the floor.
BUSS FORGOT ABOUT the incident until after the fall of the Philippines to Japan in 1942. Recalled to duty by the State Department before the outbreak of World War II, he had been assigned to Manila. After Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt pulled Gen. MacArthur and U.S. High Commissioner Francis Sayre out of the Philippines, leaving Buss as the senior American official in Manila and effectively dooming him to internment.
Claude Buss in 1942.
After six months in internment, he was told that he was to be transferred and was flown to Tokyo on a DC-3, accompanied only by his guard. A Japanese army officer met him upon arrival in Tokyo. Standing in silence beside the officer was Buss former house guest, Hideshi Maki. But it wasnt until after the war that Buss learned that Maki, seeing his former professors name on an internee roster, had secured his reclassification from government official internee to scholar author internee. Thanks to this reclassification, Buss was one of 1,500 American internees later exchanged by the Japanese for 1,500 of their people who had been interned by Americans during the war.
Had it not been for Maki, I might well have been one of the thousands who died in the liberation of the Philippines, he says.
Maki, now deceased, became one of the most influential advisors to Japanese companies in the U.S. (The other student, Susumu Nikaido, ended up being elected to the house of representatives of the Diet, Japans national assembly. This year marks his 50th anniversary as a Diet member.)
Buss went on to teach at Stanford after the war and is now a professor of national security affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey. In the Philippines last summer, he recalled the profound effect that his former student had on his life.
Whatever has happened during these past years, I shall always be grateful to Maki, the USC student who saved my life.