Robert Lee Beisner

Robert L. Beisner, a prizewinning diplomatic historian, died Jan. 31, 2018 at a hospital in Washington D.C.. He was 81.

A memorial will be held at American University in Washington D.C. on the afternoon of Saturday, April 21, 2018. Please contact Katharine Beisner at if you are interested in attending.

Robert was born in Lexington, March 8, 1936. His father, Al Beisner, owned a car dealership, and his mother, Charlene Beisner, was a homemaker. He attended Nebraska’s Hastings College for two years, then left for the University of Chicago, where he received a master’s degree in in history 1960.

Professor Beisner received his PhD in history from the University of Chicago in 1965 where his dissertation won the Allan Nevins Prize from the Society for American Historians. Professor Beisner joined AU in the Department of History shortly thereafter, and is remembered as a beloved and respected colleague. He chaired the history department for several terms in the 1980s. Professor Beisner’s scholarship and excellent teaching set the tone for the department during his time at AU.


Professor Beisner was an acclaimed scholar, winning the John Dunning Prize from the American Historical Association, the Robert H. Ferrell Award from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, the Douglas Dillon Award from the American Academy of Diplomacy, and the Arthur Ross Silver Medal Book Award from the Council on Foreign Relations. He was also the First Runner-Up for the Harry S. Truman Book Award from the Truman Presidential Library. Professor Beisner was widely respected throughout the history profession. He served as President of the Society for the History of American Foreign Relations in 2002, was an elected fellow and former president of the highly prestigious Society of American Historians, and even received a stellar review in the New York Times by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger for his work. Professor Beisner retired from AU in 1998.

Robert Beisner maintained an interest in Lexington throughout his life, returning for class reunions and reading the local papers online.

He is survived by his daughter, Katharine Beisner, son John Beisner, stepdaughter Signe Williamson, and stepson John Allen.

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