About Robert Fuller

About Robert Fuller

Robert FullerRobert W. Fuller, Ph.D., former president of Oberlin College, is an internationally recognized authority on rankism and dignity. His books and ideas have been widely covered in the media, including The New York Times, The Oprah Magazine Magazine, National Public Radio, C-SPAN, The Boston Globe, the BBC and Voice of America. Fuller has also given hundreds of talks at a variety of organizations, from Yale University to Microsoft to Kaiser Hospital.

Back Story:
After earning his Ph.D. in physics at Princeton University in 1961, Robert Fuller taught at Columbia University and co-authored the book Mathematics of Classical and Quantum Physics. The mounting social unrest of the 1960s drew his attention to educational reform, and in 1970 he was appointed president of his alma mater Oberlin College at the age of 33.

In 1970 Fuller traveled to India (where he served as a consultant to Indira Gandhi) and, on a return visit the following year, witnessed firsthand the famine resulting from the war of succession of Bangladesh from Pakistan. With the election of Jimmy Carter, Fuller began a campaign to persuade the new president to lead the nations of the world, once and for all, to end hunger. His meeting with Carter in the Oval Office in June 1977 led to the establishment of the Presidential Commission on World Hunger.

During the 1980s, Fuller traveled frequently to the USSR, working as a citizen-scientist to improve the Cold War relationship. This work helped lead to the creation of the non-profit global corporation Internews, which promotes democracy via free and independent media, and for many years Fuller served as its chairman.

With the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the USSR, Robert Fuller looked back reflectively on his career and understood that he had been at different junctures in his life, a somebody and a nobody. His periodic sojourns in “Nobodyland” led him to identify and investigate rankism – defined as abuse of the power inherent in rank – and ultimately to write Somebodies and Nobodies: Overcoming the Abuse of Rank (New Society Publishers, 2003). In 2006 he published a sequel that focuses on building a dignitarian society titled All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity (Berrett-Koehler). With co-author Pamela Gerloff, Robert Fuller has also published Dignity for All: How to Create a World Without Rankism (Berrett-Koehler, 2008). His most recent books are Religion and Science: A Beautiful Friendship? and The Rowan Tree: A Novel. Fuller’s books have been translated and published in India, China, Korea, and Bangladesh. In addition to his many speaking engagements in the United States and Canada, Fuller has served as a Visiting Professor at the Indian Institute of Science (Center for Contemporary Studies) in Bangalore, India.

7 thoughts to “About Robert Fuller”

  1. I was listening to Robert Fuller on the Bill Good this morning – I just wanted to thank him for his book and his insite. I look forward to reading the book.


  2. Your guest appearance on The Bill Good Program was by far one of the most insightful,and downright thought-provoking shows I’ve had the opportunity of listening to. Like yourself, I too am an educator, and your comments have made me reflect on my own attitudes and interaction with my students. The subject I teach is E.S.L. I must especially be careful to treat all students with dignity no matter which of the eight or more countries they might hail from. Bravo! Prof.Fuller. Thanks so much for enlightening me on the topics of rankism, dignity, etc…. G.Karpel, Vancouver,B.C.

  3. all i can say is wow what an amazing person. i was driving around at work this morning listing to mr fuller.i just could’nt get enough of him. he made me think of my childhood and all the racism i was exposed to.he really gave me hope that the world may have a chance to change.i know i have overcome my dislike for people who are different. i just hope the world can.

  4. I have a word for how I’m feeling after listening to a 20 minute segment from Robert Fuller: Invisible. It’s not that it’s good to be or feel invisible BUT knowing there is someone has spent years of his life bringing attention to the realities of S & N’s gives me one more reason for hope. I caught a snipet of this wonderful man during a(n all to brief) feed of Free Speech TV (3 hours a day on the local public access channel. I feel a glimmer of hope. He put it into perfect words – I could just fill in my name!

    I’m now 57 (woman, Anglo). At 30 I faced myself in several years of group therapy and I got a voice (apparently a woman with a voice isn’t very popular, oops). Before therapy I was just invisible and very sad …after therapy I’ve been invisible, but with a voice that has annoyed SO many people. The ‘somebodies’, and I’ve know plenty, have always wanted to put me in my place – I’m still fighting, but tired. Since I’m no longer ‘young, perky and using my feminine wiles (I’m over it) my position in life has been made perfectly clear. What I (now) consider thoughts have been, too often, deemed AN ATTITUDE.

    I was “let go (fired)” 15 months ago for “not being able to do my job – I’d done for 4 1/2 years” (for being a mature woman with ideas, questions and an irreverence for authority for the sake of authority). I’ve been in an out of therapy over these last (almost) 30 years, trying to learn to fit in.

    The most recent INVISIBLE situation is that I have (finally been diagnosed with) ‘invisible illness’s of Fibromyalgia and CFIDS, ME. Interestingly, our government (SSA) wants you to see a specialist to prove you have that…but there really isn’t a specialist. After working non-stop for almost 40 years, unable to work and having had my Enron ESOP eaten up by greedy people and needing SSDI to live on…hmmm, Gee, why do I feel invisible?

    THANK YOU ROBERT FULLER – I need your words to help me remain feeling sane.

  5. Dear Nancy from H, TX (Houston?)

    It is now December of ’08 and so a year and a half has passed since you wrote on this site, but I want you to know someone heard and understands, someone very much like yourself. I have written about Enron as a failure of corporate stewardship, under which heading I include the activities which Dr. Fuller refers to as “rankism”.

    I hope you have obtained disability in the meantime (I have been on disability for bipolar disease for ten years or so).

    It is frankly amazing how few even within the professions are aware of aspects of disease semiology of which sufferers such as yourself and myself are all too acutely aware. I have often said to myself, “If only people knew” what we understand. If only psychiatrists would just shut up and listen to their patients teach them about these conditions…

  6. C. S. Herrman and Nancy from H, TX:

    I am also a person disabled with CFS/ME. Amazingly, my second application to SS was accepted. It amazed my lawyer because at the time I was a thirty-four year old male. He was certain I would have to go to hearing, but that did not happen. It may be that my migraine headaches also contributed to the SS administration deciding to to fight. (All this occurred in 1998, btw)

    Keep trying to hold on to your own dignity. The people who discount your conditions may be (generously) thought to simply be people who have a paradigm in their heads requiring them to find a solution for you. Since, quite often, we do not have immediate solutions, the next coping mechanism that people will use is to eliminate the problem by refusing to acknowledge its existence. If there is no problem, then no solution need be found.

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