Frederick Lewis Schuman, originally Schumann, was born to parents Karl August and Ella Schumann on February 22, 1904 in Chicago, Illinois. He attended high school in Chicago, where he met many of his lifelong friends and correspondents. After graduating from Lakeview High School in Chicago in 1920, he attended the University of Chicago for his undergraduate degree, followed by Columbia University for his Ph. B., then returned to Chicago where he obtained his Ph.D. in Political Science in 1927. That same year, Professor Schuman took a position in the political science of the University of Chicago. In 1929, he met Lily Abell while traveling in France, and in 1930 they were married. His two sons, Karl and Donald, were born during the years that followed, and Marcia Armstrong, Schuman’s niece, was adopted into the family after her mother was killed in an automobile accident. Schuman continued to teach at Chicago until coming to Williams in 1936, where he was ultimately named the Woodrow Wilson Professor of Government.
During his tenure at Williams, Professor Schuman continued to hold part-time and temporary employment elsewhere as a summer instructor and traveling lecturer. He also authored a number of books on political science, offering his own predictions about the future of the United States and of the world. He is perhaps most famous for having been among the first to predict the outbreak of the Second World War. He left the college during World War II to act as an analyst for the Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service, a branch of the Federal Communications Commission.
Following the war, Professor Schuman was investigated by the House Committee on Un-American Activities for his alleged communist sympathies. Although he was ultimately acquitted, many vocal critics, including several Williams alumni, objected to the professor?s outspoken liberalism and suspected communism and continued to call for Schuman’s dismissal throughout the rest of his career at the college. The professor undertook several very public political and social battles at Williams, including his much-publicized refusal to attend ceremonies during a visit from Ladybird Johnson, which he considered a tacit indication of support for President Johnson’s foreign policies on the part of the college.
The Schumans lost their oldest son, Karl Schuman, in a automobile accident in 1965. In 1968, Professor Schuman left Williamstown for Portland, Oregon, where he took a position as a political science professor at Portland State University. In 1977, Lily Abell Schuman died of cancer, and the professor moved into an apartment with his son Donald and grandson Dieter. After his retirement from teaching, even as his health declined, he continued his voluminous correspondence with friends and former students. The professor passed away due to complications arising from a heart attack on May 18, 1981.
By Stella Onochie (Class of 2009) and Grace Laidlaw