UND alumnus Bill Harwood to give Department of History's 2014 Wilkins Lecture April 1


Jan Orvik

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

College of Arts & Sciences


William "Bill" Harwood, a native of Grand Forks, will serve as this year's Department of History Robert Wilkins Lecturer. He will present "From a Writer's Perspective: My Life in the Foreign Service from Mogadishu to Moscow" at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 1, in Room 7, Education Building.

A graduate of Grand Forks Central High School (1964) and the University of North Dakota (1968) with a bachelor's degree in History and Honors, Bill continued his education at the University of Illinois, receiving his Ph.D. in 1977.

His focus on Russia, Poland, and the broader areas of Modern European History while at Illinois ultimately led him to the United States Information Agency (USIA), now a part of the State Department. Throughout his twenty-plus year career with the Foreign Service Office, Bill served in Bangladesh, Nepal, Poland, India, Somalia, Russia, and Pakistan.

Working in the area of cultural affairs, he arranged for American economists to speak abroad on their fields of expertise, aided with the Fulbright Program, organized tours by American jazz groups throughout India, and paved the way for the North Texas State Brass Band to tour Russia. In many of his postings, he served as the local information officer for the United States, ensuring the placement of articles regarding the United States in the local media. Moreover, he gathered local press items reflecting the regional view of the United States. Additionally, he served as a spokesman for the United States in the area of his posting. Along the way, he learned Polish, Russian, French, German, Hindi, Napali, Urdu, Bengali, Greek, and Latin.

His father, Theodore H. Harwood, served as Dean of the UND Medical School from 1953 to 1972, and his sister and brother are also UND alumni.

Since his retirement from the State Department, Bill lives in Burlington, Vermont, where he spends his time teaching and performing music and in volunteer projects associated with his church.

The Wilkins Lecture:

The Robert P. Wilkins Lecture Series was established by the UND Department of History as a tribute to the long service, dedication to teaching, and intellectual curiosity of Professor Wilkins (1914-1989).

Wilkins, who earned degrees from Indiana University and West Virginia University , joined the History Department in 1945, where he offered courses in Ancient, Medieval, Modern European, American, and Canadian History, and also developed a series of courses on popular culture, particularly in the area of American popular music. His wife, Wynona, taught French. He taught at the University of Oklahoma during a 1962 leave of absence and in 1964 took a position at Marshall University. He returned to UND in 1967 to teach and to be editor of the North Dakota Quarterly, developing it into one of the region's premier academic journals. He specialized in North Dakota history, and he and Wynona authored North Dakota: A Bicentennial History. He retired in 1981 and continued to conduct research and publish. For a full decade after his retirement, he volunteered to teach at least one class each semester. He died in 1998.