Remembering Leo Ribuffo

An image of the late professor Leo Ribuffo, smiling.
December 04, 2018

The History Department community mourns the death of Leo Ribuffo, professor of 20th century U.S. history. Leo was the author of The Old Christian Right: The Protestant Far Right from the Great Depression to the Cold War, which was awarded the 1985 Merle Curti Prize for best book in intellectual history by the Organization of American Historians. He also wrote Right Center Left: Essays in American History (1992) and many articles for scholarly and popular journals. At the time of his death, Leo was completing a biography of Jimmy Carter called The Limits of Moderation: Jimmy Carter and the Ironies of American Liberalism. Over the course of his 45-year-long career at GW, Leo taught courses on contemporary U.S. history and America social thought.  He was a challenging and memorable teacher to innumerable undergraduates and a revered mentor to dozens of graduate students. His intelligence, erudition, and sardonic wit will be deeply missed by his many friends and colleagues.

"It is with great sadness that we share with you the news that Professor Leo Ribuffo died unexpectedly on November 27. He had just returned from an intellectual history conference in Chicago that featured a special session on his contributions to the field. In Chicago he attended an opera—one of his favorite pastimes—with his good friend Mike Sherry whom he had known since his graduate student days at Yale. Leo had a talent for cultivating friends. He had a generous laugh that let people know he appreciated what they said. Leo was good company, who enjoyed  fine cigars from Cuba and the best sort of comfort food but who delighted most in conversations with his colleagues and friends. He was, of course, a mainstay of the GW History Department, leading its efforts in twentieth century American history for over forty years. He wrote award winning books but made his mark as a mentor to generations of graduate students. His graduate seminars captivated his students, many of whom chose Leo to direct their dissertations. He was as deeply read in the history literature as anyone, and he had a lightning quick mind capable of making connections that illuminated America history in perceptive and highly original ways. His death greatly diminishes the GW Department of History and the history profession more generally." - Professor Emeritus Ed Berkowitz