Earlier this week SCM received the news that SCM board member Jere Bacharach had passed away. He was a long time supporter of SCM and we will miss his guidance on the board as well as his friendship and expertise. Below is a memoriam from Felicia Hecker at the University of Washington where Jere had worked as a professor and administrator.
JERE L. BACHARACH | A REMEMBRANCE
Felicia J. Hecker
Retired, Associate Director, Middle East Center
University of Washington
Jere L. Bacharach, Professor Emeritus, Department of History and Stanley D. Golub Professor Emeritus of International Studies, scholar of the medieval Middle East, inspiring teacher, colleague, friend, and mentor to many, died April 9, 2023 at the age of 85.
Jere Bacharach received his B.A. from Trinity College (CT), his M.A. from Harvard University, and his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. His lifelong dedication to Middle East and Islamic history began in the fall of 1958 when he did his junior year abroad at Edinburgh University. There he took his first course on Islamic history, which proved to be a pivotal moment in his life and one that he later reflected on saying, “I became so turned on by the subject that I decided to make Islamic history a life’s pursuit and I am pleased I did.”
Jere’s passion for the field would carry through a remarkably productive fifty-five-year career of scholarly work and administrative leadership at the University of Washington. Jere was hired in 1968 by then Chair of the Department of History, the eminent scholar of Southeast European history, Peter Sugar. From the beginning of his career, Jere was filled with enthusiasm for the field, his research, his colleagues and his students. The incandescent enthusiasm and warm encouragement he offered so generously to all was a unique quality that propelled both his own success as a scholar and administrator and the success of many others as well.
Although Jere’s interest and expertise in the Middle East spanned a wide range from Islamic art and architecture to medieval archaeology of Cairo, he was probably best known for his research on numismatics of the Arab world—a subject he was writing about and publishing on well into his retirement. From 1966 to 2007 Jere published almost forty books, articles, and catalogues on the subject of coinage and numismatics in the Islamic world. His work in numismatics opened new avenues for understanding the politics and society of medieval Egypt and beyond. Recognizing his contributions, Oxford University named Jere the Samir Shama Fellow in Islamic Numismatics and Epigraphy in 2004.
Jere’s commitment to the field of Middle East studies and to strengthening the professional organizations that underpinned research and scholarship he cared about was unequaled. From 1978 to 1992 he served as the Editor of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) Bulletin, and was elected President of MESA serving from 1999-2000. He also was elected president of the Middle East Medievalist (1997-2000, and 2003-6), and served on the Board of Directors of American Research Center in Egypt and American Numismatics Society to name just a few. The remarkable extent of Jere’s service to so many organizations was recognized by MESA in 2004 when the organization renamed its service award in honor commending “his extraordinary service to MESA, many of her sister societies, and the field overall.”
Of all his talents, Jere perhaps most enjoyed his role as a teacher and mentor. A consummate speaker, Jere could easily hold the attention of undergraduates in large survey classes, advanced graduate students in small seminars, or even local business people at downtown lunches. He relished teaching and mentoring, which came naturally to him though he always credited his thesis advisor at Trinity College, Philip Kittler, whom he said was, “exceptional in demonstrating how to work with students as individuals.” Jere’s own engaging style as a teacher was fortified by the very solid academic training he received from his own mentors: W. Montgomery Watt, author of numerous books on the Prophet Muhammad and early Islam and his Ph.D. supervisor, Middle East historian, and lifelong friend Andrew S. Ehrenkreutz.
Beyond research and teaching, Jere excelled as an administrator in higher education. His generous personality and invariably positive outlook always brought people together, even when that seemed impossible. During his years at the University of Washington, he served in many leadership roles including: the Director of the Jackson School’s Middle East Center, 1982-1995; Chair of the Department of History, 1987-92; Founder and Chair of the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in Near and Middle Eastern Studies, 1992-2000; and Director of the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, 1995-2001. He established the Jere L. Bacharach Endowed Chair in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Jere L. Bacharach Fund in the Middle East Center.
Jere retired from the University of Washington in 2004 as the Stanley D. Golub Professor Emeritus of International Studies and Professor Emeritus, Department of History. Jere’s legacy continues through his scholarship and through the many students, staff, faculty and colleagues whom he so generously encouraged, guided, and promoted over his long career at the University of Washington.