Lev Dobriansky, a former Georgetown professor of economics for 39 years, U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas and anti-communist advocate, died Jan. 30 of a heart attack at his Springfield, Va., home at the age of 89.

“At Georgetown, there were many excellent professors, but Lev Dobriansky was unique. Witty, full of life, fascinating stories, and engaged all the time, he did more than teach. He was a friend and mentor to his students,” said David Rivkin (SFS ’80), a former student of his.

Born Nov. 9, 1918, to Ukrainian parents in New York City, Dobriansky attended New York University, where he completed his undergraduate degree in 1941, his master’s degree in 1943 and his doctorate in 1951.

After teaching at NYU for six years, Dobriansky moved to Georgetown, where he taught economics until his retirement in 1987. During his tenure, he co-founded and directed Georgetown’s Institute on Comparative Political and Economic Systems in 1970.

Appointed by former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, Dobriansky served as the U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas from 1982 to 1986. He also held positions as a consultant to the U.S. Departments of State and Defense, the U.S. Information Agency, intelligence agencies and Congressional committees.

Dobriansky authored numerous foreign policy, national security and economic works, and his many honors and awards include the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, which he was awarded in 1986.

He also played an integral role in the 2005 founding of Captive Nations Week, which honors and commemorates those who died under communist rule. It has been officially proclaimed by every American president since Dwight Eisenhower and is observed during the third week of July.

“He started Captive Nations to keep memories alive: to advocate, to keep faith with the enslaved, to show that the blandishments of freedom had not blinded us to the suffering of innocents abroad, to change the world,” said Chris Robling (CAS ’77), a former student and teaching assistant of Dobriansky.

A life-long anti-communist activist, Dobriansky co-founded the Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington, D.C., which was dedicated in June 2007 by President George W. Bush.

“The president is saddened by the death of Lev Dobriansky, one of our nation’s greatest champions of freedom. He respected Lev’s commitment to educating politicians and students alike about the evils of communism and the great promise of liberty. He believed Lev was a leader who helped tear down the walls of tyranny and deliver hope to millions of people around the world,” White House spokesperson Tony Fratto said to The Washington Times.

“Lev showed us how simply remembering could be revolutionary. He remembered that economic systems must be judged in contexts that go beyond land, labor and capital to include natural rights, freedom and the rule of law. He remembered the Captive Nations. He remembered the victims of communism. And he showed us that living in the `now,’ which is living without memory, can be its own form of debilitating captivity,” Robling said.

Rivkin added that Dobriansky inspired him and others by drawing on the limitless potential of people to change the world.

“Lev showed me that the combination of scholarship and civic activism, in a sense of trying to change the world, was possible, that great things were possible,” he said.

Dobriansky is survived by his wife of 62 years, Julia Dobriansky, and his daughters, Larisa (SFS ’73) and Paula Dobriansky (SFS ’77). Larisa Dobriansky is an environmental lawyer and Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of National Energy Policy at the U.S. Department of Energy. Paula Dobriansky is the current Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

A memorial service in honor of Dobriansky will be held on Feb. 19 at 3 p.m. in Gaston Hall.

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