Aug. 12, 1997
KALAMAZOO -- A former military officer and CIA official will establish a permanent endowment fund to support a history professorship at Western Michigan University.
Jerome Neal of Fort Collins, Colo., will create the endowment through a $250,000 estate bequest in his will. To be known as the Jerome Barrington Neal Professor of History, the professorship will allow WMU to add to its roster of outstanding teachers who conduct and supervise high-quality research. Candidates for the five-year professorship are expected to have a strong background and specialization in military and security affairs.
The professorship will complement a program of named professorships announced by WMU President Diether H. Haenicke in April. The first six of these professorships have already been created and awarded.
Neal, who was born and raised in Kalamazoo, received a bachelor of science degree in German from WMU in 1955. An Army ROTC participant, he earned the designation of ROTC Distinguished Military Graduate and accepted a commission into the regular Army. Assigned to Germany, Neal commanded an armored unit patrolling the border with East Germany. Subsequently, he served as an aide-de-camp to the commanding general of the U.S. Army in Germany.
In 1960, he attended the Army Advance Officer Class at Fort Benning, Ga., and after his promotion to captain, stayed on as a staff instructor. During a later assignment to Washington, however, Neal's career took a different turn when the Central Intelligence Agency invited him to join its Clandestine Service.
He accepted and served with the agency for three decades, retiring in 1991. Posted overseas, primarily in Europe, he became well acquainted with many leading foreign officials, as well as with many prominent figures of the Cold War years. In the process, he gained recognition as an expert on East and West Germany and Eastern Europe. He also served in Vietnam during the war.
In his final years with the agency, Neal held an executive position as a deputy inspector general and directed a CIA unit in a major European city. Just prior to his retirement, he worked for the Counter Narcotics Center, which President George Bush established at the CIA's headquarters to combine the efforts of government agencies involved in the war against drugs.
Neal, who moved to Fort Collins in 1992, conducts guest lectures on intelligence and foreign policy issues at Colorado State University and elsewhere. He also is enrolled in CSU's master's degree program in military and security affairs and is involved in local volunteer work. In addition, Neal spends some of his time indulging his interest in the Civil War, writing on the subject and visiting the battlefields where his great grandfather fought as a Union officer.
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