Thomas Buergenthal

Lobinger Professor of Comparative Law and Jurisprudence, George Washington University Law School; Member, Ethics Commission of the International Olympic Committee,
Bethany College (WV), Class of 1957
Thomas Buergenthal Headshot
A good liberal arts education begins and ends with good teachers; one cannot have one without the other. I had some outstanding humanities professors at Bethany College. They made me appreciate the cultural and educational value of the courses they taught; they also had an impressive knowledge of their subjects. What is more, they knew how to teach.
At Bethany College, I majored in history/political science and minored in English. I had some very good history courses, both ancient and modern; very fine American political science courses; and equally good foreign language courses (German and French, from the same professor!). To this day, I remember with pleasure a seminar on modern French drama. I also especially enjoyed an American poetry class and still have the book we used. And after more than 50 years, I open the book from time to time to reread a poem.
After leaving Bethany College, I studied law at New York University Law School and Harvard Law School, specializing in international law. I became a professor of international law and served as a judge on two international courts. In my work as professor and judge, I benefited greatly from the liberal arts education I received at Bethany College. I believe that one cannot understand the role of law in society, be it national or international, without taking account of its cultural and historical roots. That is where a good liberal art education helps.

Thomas Buergenthal is the Lobingier Professor of Comparative Law and Jurisprudence at George Washington University Law School and a member of the Ethics Commission of the International Olympic Committee.
He is a former judge of the International Court of Justice and former judge and president of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. He served as dean of the Washington College of Law (1980–1985) and held endowed professorships at the University of Texas and Emery University Law Schools.
Buergenthal graduated from Bethany College in 1957. He received his Juris Doctor degree from New York University Law School (1960) and his Masters of Law (1961) and Doctor of Juridical Science (1968) degrees from Harvard Law School. He is the recipient of honorary degree from various American and European universities. His books and law review articles dealing with international law and international human rights subjects have been published in the United States and abroad.