'Trail Blazer' Gunter wins Tennessee Tech's Caplenor Award

Michael Gunter, professor of political science at Tennessee Technological University, has won the 1995 Caplenor Faculty Research Award, the university's highest recognition of excellence in faculty research.

Gunter predicted the Middle Eastern conflict of the Kurds, an ethnic group numbering some 25 million people battling for a fully independent state, five years ago in The Kurds in Turkey: A Political Dilemma and again in The Kurds of Iraq: Tragedy and Hope. In the 18 years he has spent studying the Kurds, he has earned an international reputation.

Will the Kurds win their battle for a fully independent state? Or will the existing states continue to deny them their right of self determination?

"The Kurdish dilemma in Turkey," says Robert Olson, professor at history at the University of Kentucky, "is the single most important force that drives that country's domestic and foreign policies. It is now the major question in the Middle East and surpasses in significance the Arab-Israeli conflict. Dr. Gunter and his work were prescient in pointing out the potential development of the Kurdish question. The Kurds in Turkey is a one-of-a-kind book and it has brought Gunter international recognition."

In part, such recognition has come in the form of invitations for guest lectures from many of the world's international policy shapers. Gunter has spoken before the U.S. State Department five times, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, Amnesty International, the Moshe Dyan Center for Middle Eastern & African Studies and a host of universities. He also has served as consultant to these groups and others, including the Rand Corporation, National Geographic Society and several branches of the Canadian government.

"Professor Gunter is an astute observer of the international scene," says Nader Entessar, chair of social science at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala. "He has distinguished himself as a first-rate scholar with superb analytical skill. Among American scholars, he is a trail blazer in the field of contemporary Kurdish politics."

Says Christopher Joyner, professor of government at Georgetown University, "Over nearly two decades of research, I have encountered few persons of such high professional integrity and intellectual energy as Professor Gunter. His writings prompt new insights into important research questions that seek to explore the nature of violence in society, the cause of conflict and the justification for national self-determination."

First presented in 1984, the university's premier research award is named in honor of Donald Caplenor, former associate vice president for research and dean of instructional development.

Gunter, who in 1978 received the first of two Fulbright Awards, said, "As a young scholar, I had doubts about going to Turkey, and I went to Don Caplenor for advice. He encouraged me; he told me it was a great honor. Had I not gone, there's no telling what direction my career would have taken.

"Sadly, Caplenor died while I was away. And I have to say that one of the reasons I'm so pleased about winning this award is that it feels fitting somehow. I can honestly say he had a huge role in shaping my career 18 years ago."

In addition to his pathbreaking studies on the Kurds, Gunter also is the author of "Pursuing the Just Cause of Their People": A Study of Contemporary Armenian Terrorism . London's Research Institute for the Study of Conflict and Terrorism has published two Gunter monographs as well: The Changing Kurdish Problem in Turkey and Transnational Armenian Activism .

"A number of very talented individuals were nominated for this year's award and, as in the past, the committee carefully examined the dossiers of the nominees," says George Webb, chair of the award committee. "All nominees had impressive records, but Professor Gunter emerged as a scholar who had contributed significantly to his discipline over a long and distinguished career.

"It is also important to note that his contributions were made in addition to his heavy teaching responsibilities, which he also carries out with effectiveness. He thus represents the ideal of a scholar-teacher who both discovers and disseminates knowledge."

Gunter will receive a plaque and honorarium during fall commencement ceremonies Saturday. Last year's recipient of the Caplenor Award was Helen Deese, professor of English.