| by Jason Warburg

News Stories, People

Bill Potter in his office
William C. Potter is the founding director of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) and the Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar Professor of Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute. (Credit: Elena Zhukova )

Citing his innovative and inspirational work in the field of nonproliferation education, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace recently named Dr. William Potter, founder and director of the Middlebury Institute’s James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), as the recipient of its Thérèse Delpech Memorial Award.

The semiannual award is designated for “an individual who has rendered exceptional service to the nongovernmental nuclear policy community.” Potter was cited as “a tireless champion of education and training in the field of nonproliferation” by the person presenting his award—one of his former students. “Without Bill Potter, I can assure you that I wouldn’t be in the field today—and I know that I’m just one of countless others for whom this is the case,” said Sarah Bidgood MANPTS ’16, director of the Eurasia Nonproliferation Program at CNS.

“It is very gratifying to be recognized by my peers for building an international community of nonproliferation specialists, the focus of my labors over many years,” said Potter. “In today’s world in disarray, it is difficult to be an optimist, but I retain hope and gain inspiration from my students, who are idealistic, energetic, and dedicated to making the world a safer place.”

The Thérèse Delpech Memorial Award recognizes “exceptional creativity, integrity, humanity, and amity,” qualities embodied by Delpech, a long-time strategic advisor to the French Atomic Energy Commission. Delpech passed away in January 2012, and since 2013 the award bearing her name has been presented at each semiannual Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference. This year’s conference featured more than 1,300 participants from 72 countries.

“The Thérèse Delpech Memorial Award is particularly meaningful to me,” said Potter, “because Thérèse was a dear friend whom I deeply admired for her intellect, extraordinary courage, and unflinching pursuit of principle over expediency. It is a tremendous honor to be associated with her.”

I retain hope and gain inspiration from my students, who are idealistic, energetic, and dedicated to making the world a safer place.
— Dr. William Potter

In her introduction at the conference, Bidgood described Potter as “an internationally recognized authority on nuclear nonproliferation, on issues ranging from U.S.-Russia cooperation on nuclear issues to nuclear terrorism to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty itself,” as well as a tireless champion of education and training in the field of nonproliferation. With regard to the latter, she cited the “countless hours [he has spent] devising innovative approaches to nonproliferation education,” specifically “his pioneering use of simulations in the classroom to teach students how nuclear diplomacy works in practice, and also to impart the essential importance of empathy and trust in ensuring that these efforts succeed.”

Announcing the award on Twitter, Carnegie said, “The quality of Bill’s research and writing stands on its own, but what he’s best known for is his life’s work and passion: fostering the next generation of nonproliferation specialists. … Bill has tirelessly created educational and training opportunities for thousands of practitioners in the WMD nonproliferation and disarmament community.”

In addition to establishing the first major graduate concentration in nonproliferation studies, which subsequently became the MA in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies program at MIIS, Potter has served as a delegate at every Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference and Preparatory Committee meeting since 1995, has served on numerous committees of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and for five years was a member of the UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters. 

In recent years, Potter received a special award for his work on nonproliferation and disarmament education from the Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was elected as a foreign member to the Russian Academy of Sciences section on Global Issues and International Relations.

Potter founded the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at MIIS in 1989, shortly after he joined the Institute’s faculty. It has since grown to become the largest research and training center in the world focused on curtailing the spread of weapons of mass destruction.