Robert W. Fuller
Fuller, Robert W.
After earning his Ph.D. in physics at Princeton University in 1961, Robert Fuller taught at Columbia University and co-authored the book Mathematics of Classical and Quantum Physics. The mounting social unrest of the 1960s drew his attention to educational reform, and in 1970 he was appointed president of his alma mater Oberlin College at the age of thirty-three.
In 1970 Fuller traveled to India (as a consultant to Indira Gandhi) and in 1971 he returned and witnessed firsthand the famine resulting from the war with Pakistan over what became Bangladesh. With the election of Jimmy Carter, Fuller began a campaign to persuade the new president to end world hunger. His meeting with President Carter in the Oval Office in June 1977 furthered the establishment of the Presidential Commission on World Hunger.
During the 1980s, Fuller traveled frequently to the USSR, working as a citizen-scientist to improve the Cold War relationship. For many years, he served as chairman of the nonprofit global corporation Internews, which promotes democracy via free and independent media.
With the collapse of the USSR, Fuller’s work as citizen diplomat came to a close and he began reflecting on his career and came to understand that he had, at various times, been a somebody and a nobody and the cycle was continuing. His periodic sojourns in “Nobodyland” led him to identify and investigate rankism—defined as abuse of the power inherent in rank—and ultimately to write Somebodies and Nobodies: Overcoming the Abuse of Rank, (2003) New Society Publishers. In 2006, he published a sequel that focuses on building a dignitarian society titled All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity (Berrett-Koehler, 2006). An Indian edition was published in 2007 (Viveka Foundation), a Chinese translation in 2008, and a Bengali translation in 2009. Fuller has also co-authored (with Pamela A. Gerloff) a short practical guide for creating dignity in our homes, schools, workplaces, and the world entitled Dignity for All: How to Create a World Without Rankism (Berrett-Koehler, 2008).