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Distinguished Faculty

Clark Neher

Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus, Political Science

Clark Neher

Dr. Clark Neher’s name is synonymous with NIU’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies and the Department of Political Science. “He has left a truly remarkable legacy,” says Matthew Streb, professor and chair of the Department of Political Science. 

After earning his M.A. from Stanford University and serving in the military, Dr. Neher joined the newly established Peace Corps and taught in Thailand for two years. Upon returning to the States, he earned his Ph.D. from UCLA in 1969, and then accepted a position at NIU, where he spent 31 years teaching, leading, and researching. 

“He was an outstanding mentor to numerous political science graduate students with a reputation for being a kind, attentive, and extremely supportive advisor,” says Christopher Jones, vice provost for university honors. NIU alumni such as John Brandon, director of international programs for The Asia Foundation, often cite Dr. Neher as influential in their lives. Mr. Brandon recounts the story of his first conversation with Dr. Neher, who was then chair of the Department of Political Science: “Professor Neher told his assistant to shut the door, that he was speaking with a prospective student and didn’t want to be interrupted for 30 minutes. To me, that was a tremendous personal touch.” It comes as no surprise, then, that Dr. Neher was recognized as an NIU Presidential Teaching Professor in 1997. 

Dr. Neher served as chair of the Department of Political Science twice (1982–1988 and 1993–1996) and as Director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS) from 1996–1999. Under his tenure, CSEAS was designated as a National Resource Center by the U.S. Department of Education and received initial funding of over $1.3 million from the National Security Education Program. Federal support has continued uninterrupted to the present. Dr. Neher’s continued involvement with academic institutions in Thailand not only contributes to CSEAS’s presence and profile, but also enriches NIU students and faculty by bringing Thai students and culture to the university community. 

Dr. Neher received two Fulbright fellowships, and his research has been supported by the Ford Foundation and the National Science Foundation. He has held numerous positions in professional organizations and still serves on two editorial boards. The author of 12 books and monographs and dozens of scholarly articles, Dr. Neher donated the profits from one of his books to support CSEAS’ publication program. His book, Southeast Asia: Crossroads of the World, is core reading in introductory courses all over the world. 

In retirement, Dr. Neher continues his commitment to NIU and its students. He and his wife offer the Clark and Arlene Neher Graduate Fellowship for the Study of Southeast Asia. He lectures in the college’s Lifelong Learning Institute, is co-chair of CSEAS’s 50th anniversary celebration, is helping the Department of Political Science plan its 50th anniversary celebration, and serves on the department’s advisory council. Dr. Clark Neher symbolizes the legacy of scholarship, leadership, and commitment to others that is so deeply rooted in the ideals of our college and university.