Culture

In Memoriam: Peter Schramm, 1946-2015

Peter Schramm was an immigrant to this country, and he loved it in the way only those who have good characters and have seen despotism can. His family came from Hungary in 1956, like so many others. He was a boy, and just old enough to remember the trauma of the escape and the difficult decisions it imposed on the family. His mother, father, and sister found their lives here and were forever grateful.

I met Peter in graduate school in 1974. He was already the man the world later came to know: bold, large, blustery, kind, sentimental, and perceptive. He was as good a friend as a man could have. He had big ideas even then, most of them concerned with saving the country and living as a civilized man. Once, I remember, we shared drinks and exchanged concerns about paying back our student loans. He raised his glass of cheap wine and remarked: We prefer to live as gentlemen. The loans had probably bought the wine.

Peter helped to found the Claremont Institute, and he was its leader at the beginning. So much of it owed to his imagination and readiness to take risks. We involved in its founding remain friends to this day, and we’ve lost someone especially precious in Peter.

Peter was a busy man. He was longtime director of the Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs, a foothold of conservatism in academia. He wrote many books. And he taught as a politics professor at Ashland University.

This last was his true calling. Peter was a born teacher: He had deep knowledge of the best things, and he loved them. He loved America and its principles, and he could relate them to the greatest books. He loved the great exemplars of the past — Frederick the Great (about whom he wrote his doctoral thesis), Washington, Lincoln, Churchill. He could expound upon them, their principles, and also the great books that inspired and explained them, at any length, in any company, to profound effect. He was proud to be a born Hungarian, just as he was proud to be an adopted American. He had an old sense of honor dressed up in American language.

He was a man of great force, but never a bully. He loved nothing so much as talking into the night about the best things, and generations of his students at Ashland have profited from this fact. His students and his children will miss him very deeply. His friends just as much.

— Larry P. Arnn is the president of Hillsdale College, a founder of the Claremont Institute, and a Claremont Institute president from 1985–2000.

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