Founded in 1990, the Ivan Allen College’s School of International Affairs was named the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs in 1996, honoring the U.S. Senator who represented the people of Georgia in Congress for nearly a quarter of a century and continues to be an influential voice in the global policy arena.
During the 20 years since the School’s naming, the Sam Nunn School has developed cutting-edge programs in education, research, and public outreach that help shape the world in which we live and work. Today, the Nunn School is led by a diverse faculty of foreign policy and national security experts, and its community of more than 400 undergraduate and graduate students explore a broad array of topics concerning the impact of technological innovations on international relations.
The Sam Nunn School of International Affairs envisions three clear and challenging missions in the years ahead: 1) educating the next generation of scientists, engineers, and policy specialists for careers in public service and the private and nonprofit sectors; 2) producing and disseminating research that informs policy; and 3) sponsoring public programs that examine and offer innovative solutions to critical issues facing the state, region, and world.
Senator Nunn has said, “Bridges must be built between the world of science and the world of human relations, bridges which can give shape and purpose to our technology and breathe heart and soul into our knowledge.”
In celebration of the 20th anniversary of its naming as the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, we asked the greater Georgia Tech community for their reflections on Senator Nunn, the school, its key achievements, and its trajectory for the future.
University System of Georgia Board of Regents Member
“One of the drawbacks to growing up in a small southern town, the son of a prominent citizen, and with the same name as your father, is that, invariably, you acquire the moniker, “Little.” And so it was that Sam Nunn, son of the “Mr.” Sam Nunn, a prominent and the “go-to” attorney in our area, was known for a long time by the adult folks in Perry as “Little” Sam Nunn.
“He was little Sam when he attended Georgia Tech, Little when he came back to Perry to practice law, Little when he became a husband and father, Little when he chaired Perry’s Chamber of Commerce and was instrumental in starting and shepherding a bi-racial committee who he co-chaired with Richard Ray, became a successful lawyer, served on the board that gave us the Houston Lake Country Club and was a founder and board member of the First National Bank. Then he was elected to Georgia’s House of Representatives, where he served for four years. Still, to the Perryans, he was Little.”
G.P. “Bud” Peterson
President of Georgia Tech
“For two decades, the esteem with which former Senator Sam Nunn, a Georgia Tech alumnus, is held locally, nationally, and internationally has immeasurably enhanced the visibility and prestige of the school named for him as it trains our students to grapple with some of the world’s thorniest geopolitical challenges. They leave the Sam Nunn School well-versed in leadership skills and with a deep perspective of the interconnectedness between technology, international relations, and policy. Nunn School alumni are helping shape global relations as part of such entities as the White House Security Council, the U.S. Department of State, the National Nuclear Security Administration, The Coca-Cola Company, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, among others. Clearly, the Sam Nunn School is integral in Georgia Tech’s drive, as stated in our 25-Year Strategic Plan called “Designing the Future,” to “expand our global footprint and influence to ensure that we are graduating good global citizens.” The Georgia Institute of Technology is deeply in his debt, as is the entire country for his vision and leadership.”
Jacqueline J. Royster
Dean, Georgia Tech Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts
“Senator Nunn has been a guiding force for security in our world for nearly 45 years. His expertise, multi-faceted achievements, and unflagging engagement in American foreign policy and global strategic diplomacy exemplify for our students what is possible through vision, policy, and action. Senator Nunn models the moral imperative to consider both the opportunities and risks of technologies, always with a focus for achieving global stability and peace. We are both proud and privileged that our school of international affairs bears the name of this icon of American statesmanship. On behalf of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, I express our appreciation for Senator Nunn’s ongoing engagement with the School and the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts.”
Vice President of Georgia Tech Government and Community Relations
“Senator Sam Nunn’s influence on Georgia Tech and the Nunn School has increased local recognition and global credibility of both the school and Institute as a whole. The affiliation of one of Georgia’s most famous and influential figures with Georgia Tech’s technically focused International Affairs program continues to bolster the school’s strong reputation as a leader in developing global policy solutions through technical expertise.”
Chair of the Nunn School
“I have been around Georgia Tech since President Crecine created the College of Liberal Arts and a School of International Affairs. I also had the privilege of practicing law with Senator Nunn at King & Spalding when he returned from Washington. But it was not until I was given the opportunity to join the faculty and students at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs that I truly realized the amazing diversity, excellence, and impact of the school bearing the Senator’s name. The ambition to explore and teach the relationships between science, technology, and international affairs in all of their technical, geographic, cultural, and political complexity is both inspiring and a challenge worthy of Georgia Tech.”
Retired, Founding director and professor for Georgia Tech's Sam Nunn School of International Affairs
“The School’s faculty (Linda Brady was director at the time) unanimously supported asking President Wayne Clough and me (by then, I was Faculty Executive Assistant to President Clough) to approach Senator Nunn to inquire if he would be willing for Georgia Tech to move forward with naming the school after him. Senator Nunn, President Clough, and I met for breakfast at President Clough's home on a Saturday morning to discuss the idea. After talking about what naming might entail, Senator Nunn said he thought it would be a great idea and gave us the OK to move forward. During the meeting, one of us (I do not remember who) suggested holding a gala dinner to provide seed funding. Bank of America supported the dinner, which began the process. Several hundred folks attended the dinner. When students and alums found out their school was going to be named the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, they were ecstatic. I received a number of calls from students and alums who talked about how having Senator Nunn's name attached to their degrees and school would enhance their degrees and make it easier for them to get into graduate schools and get jobs. The Bank of America’s early support eventually evolved into the Sam Nunn Bank of America Policy Forums, which are still being held today.”
Nunn School Professor Emeritus and Founding Faculty Member
“When former Georgia Tech President John “Pat” Crecine sought to transform Georgia Tech into a more internationalized university, he decided to add schools of international relations and computer science. When Sam Nunn retired from the Senate, we had developed good working relations with him, and Dan’s first thought was getting him on board to be a part of Georgia Tech and to change the International Relations Department into the Sam Nunn School. I welcomed the idea as getting us immediately “on the map” and working with a great American.
“It was at Georgia Tech where I developed the concept for a Limited Nuclear Weapons Free Zone for Northeast Asia (LNWFZ-NEA) in 1991. With the cooperation of some great funding sources we were able to hold seven plenary meetings around the world to introduce the concept, which resulted in the Nobel Peace Prize nomination by the government of Finland for the 2005 competition. Without a doubt, one of the Nunn School’s key achievements was being the home of the Center for International Strategy, Technology, and Policy (CISTP) which developed the Limited Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone for Northeast Asia (LNWFZ-NEA).”
Nunn School professor on faculty since 1993
“Many Nunn School faculty members (myself included) have appeared on national and international media as experts or publishing op-eds. I have heard many people from far away countries commenting that they saw the Nunn School referenced in top international new media and were “pleasantly surprised that Georgia Tech has a good international affairs program and policy research.” I think the Nunn School has established itself as a nationally and internationally known place for top scholarship and innovation in several areas. This has greatly contributed to the overall excellent reputation of Georgia Tech as a premier university and helped to offer our students a more comprehensive, first-class education.”
Nunn School professor on faculty since 1995, served as interim chair
“I distinctly remember a meeting Senator Nunn had in his office in the School with a delegation of German parliamentarians where he briefed them on the Nuclear Threat Initiative and his goal of zero nuclear weapons worldwide. The Senator asked me to sit in on the meeting, and I was so impressed with his knowledge and informal way of interacting with his visitors. He clearly conveyed his point, making everyone feel welcome and appreciated. He drew out the policy implications of his ideas for transatlantic relations, and I remember feeling proud to be part of a school that carries the Senator’s name.”
National Intelligence Manager for East Asia Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Nunn School Alumnus (IA 1996)
“The Sam Nunn School of International Affairs taught me that many things that are worth doing are too hard to do alone. Surrounding yourself with the best team possible — with those who have different skills, different experiences, and who really excel at what they do — is the real secret to being the best. The opportunities that I had at the Nunn School to work with very talented colleagues, study outside my field by taking hard science, math, and engineering courses, and learn from a faculty that was deep on the theory and the practice of international affairs, provided an exceptional laboratory to learn the skills required to tackle the hardest challenges we face in government.”
Law Clerk to the Honorable Judith K. Nakamura (Supreme Court of New Mexico), Nunn School Alumnus (IA 2004)
“In the summer of 2001, I followed Nunn School Professor Kirk Bowman to Buenos Aires. There, over a series of wintery Argentine days, he taught me that the analytic rigor that I had only known in natural science equally applied to the study of government and the social world. Bowman introduced to analytic thinking about democracy and principles and structures of politics. I have been thinking about them since.”