On May 3, 2023, Bear Braumoeller died following a short illness.
The Baronov and Timashev Chair in Data Analytics and founder and director of the MESO (Modeling Emergent Social Order) Research Lab, Bear was our colleague in the Political Science Department at the Ohio State University, but he was also our friend and mentor. We miss him dearly.
We created this virtual memorial wall to be a place where the broader political science community can share memories and photos of Bear as a testament to his enormous influence and kindness.
If you would like to contribute your own tribute to be posted, you can share your memories and photos on our website.
In addition, our department's faculty are organizing a fund to support the education of Bear’s daughter, Molly.
Finally, if you will be attending the American Political Science Association annual meeting this fall in Los Angeles, please join us for a Roundtable Honoring Bear Braumoeller’s Contributions to the Discipline on Friday September 1st from 10am to 11:30am.
Bear was not just my professor, but also a mentor, (unofficial) advisor, and friend. He was undoubtedly an intellectual powerhouse, but it was his kindness that made him particularly stand out, both within and outside the department.
I can never forget how Bear’s support, warmth, and unwavering kindness made all the difference to me during an otherwise tough first-year when I had no one else to turn to. Bear was the kind of person who really saw people and their struggles as well as their potential.
It was only in his seminar that I developed the confidence to speak up more; at a time when I felt unsure of my abilities, he urged me to contribute more as he believed that I had insightful thoughts to share.
Bear went out of his way to express that even though he may not be my advisor, I could always reach out to him in times of difficulty.
His seminar, along with his support and encouragement, marked a turning point in my graduate school experience, and for that, I am forever indebted to Bear.
Bear was a natural leader, who even without being responsible, took it upon himself to advocate for students as well as strive to build communities, with his work on the DEI committee being just one example.
He also succeeded in providing students in his International Order seminar with a sense of solidarity.
Through the social annotation software of Perusall, we spent memorable hours bonding while responding to each other's comments and reflections on the text, which by the end of the semester included countless jokes and exaggerated reactions.
I will miss his deadpan dry sense of humor, his contagious laugh (especially when it validated my attempt at humor in class), his relentless support, and his warmth and generosity.
After a particular lunch when Bear didn’t let my friend and I pay, he told us instead to “pay it forward.” I will especially remember this as I hope to inculcate qualities like kindness and compassion that Bear so naturally radiated out into the world.
Kaveri Sarkar (Department of Political Science, Ohio State)
Bear was an outstanding researcher and teacher, but above all, a great human being. He was exceptionally kind, offering his time and his advice on everything I came to him with. I valued both his opinions on important decisions and the "small talk" where we just reconnected.
My days were always brighter when I had time with Bear. Such a terrible loss!
Jenna Frye (Former colleague)
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” – Maya Angelou
Bear Braumoeller. “That’s a great name,” I couldn’t help but think when I first came across his book on systemic politics. Knowing Bear Braumoeller has been one of the greatest blessings and privileges of my life.
As my professor. My teacher. My mentor. My coauthor. My friend. He welcomed me with loving arms when I transferred to Ohio State in 2019.
When I visited other universities and met faculty from all walks of life, all they could say was “Bear Braumoeller is great man.” I remember meeting a faculty member that so powerfully remarked, “Bear changed my life.” I thought she was exaggerating.
Years later, Bear would change mine too.
Bear became a major presence in my life since I set foot in Columbus. Whenever I had any issue—personal or professional—Bear was eager to provide advice with grace and support.
Bear was by my side at every stage, every decision, every hurdle of graduate school. I don’t know how to be a political scientist without Bear.
His ideas completely changed the way I thought about international relations. His curiosity expanded my own ideas and skills. His optimism restored my faith in the discipline.
Bear so graciously invited me to be a part of the MESO Lab, and doing so changed me and my life forever. I never experienced such love or kindness before, and it really overwhelmed me. I owe Bear everything.
Any success I have in this discipline must be credited to him. I can’t imagine the world without Bear Braumoeller. My life is poorer, my world is so much poorer without him. Even more than his intellectual and professional impact on me, Bear changed me as a person.
His unwavering faith in me and my abilities gave me astonishing endurance and resolve. He never failed to articulate his pride and support for me. I am a better person because of him, his kindness, his efforts, his generosity, his humanity.
He made me feel special and worthy. Even brief conversations with him would give me all the fuel I needed to keep going.
What I loved the most about my relationship with Bear was our mutual love for good food and cooking. He was one of the first people I’ve met that had a deep understanding and respect for authentic Pakistani cuisine. I’ll never forget, after my comprehensive exams, I ran into him at the office. He was reheating something my mother cooked since childhood: Pakistani haleem.
I shrieked with joy: “is that Haleem? You know about Haleem???”
He offered me a spoonful, and I was transported back to my mom’s kitchen. We would often talk about food, share recipes, techniques, and recommendations. Because of Bear, I started to regularly use brown butter in my baked goods.
Whenever I went to a conference, I’d ask him for food recommendations. And boy, were those recommendations good. Although Bear was on sabbatical in Oslo this past year, I still felt his embrace and support from thousands of miles away.
When I went to ISA this past March, countless faculty and graduate students approached me when they saw my affiliation with Ohio State. “Do you know Bear Braumoeller?” I beamed with pride in my response, “Bear is my mentor, collaborator, and friend. I have the distinct pleasure of working with him.”
Words cannot eloquently capture how I feel about Bear or how profound his impact on my life has been. But one thing is clear: Bear Braumoeller will always be with me. I yearn for one more message, one more email, one more belly laugh, one more recipe, one more smile.
Despite my struggles, I was always comforted by the idea that I knew this great man. His ideas are forever imprinted on me.
I will never forget his compassion, his love, his unwavering, steadfast support. His resilient optimism. He loved life and lived it to the fullest. I will do anything and everything in my power to honor him. I owe Bear a tremendous debt that I won’t be able to repay in this life.
Though I only knew him a few short years, these years are filled with such wonderful memories and blessings that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
Maryum N. Alam (Political Science Department, Ohio State University)
I shared a lighthearted memory of Bear on this page but want to share a longer memory of Bear that I wrote on the day he passed: I was once introduced to someone who was described as accomplished, wise, and kind.
I was taken aback by the introduction, and I remember thinking “what else is there?”. It seems to me that anyone who is remembered that way has lived life well. Bear was one of those people.
He was accomplished, wise, and kind. Importantly, Bear was accomplished but stayed modest. He was wise but gentle with his advice.
And he was kind when he didn’t have to be - and when no one would praise him for it publicly. It’s just who he was.
I was drawn to work with Bear because he did fascinating research. He asked big, important questions and he did his best to answer them. He was methodologically sophisticated (I’ve joked that I came here to study politics, and he made me study math), but for him it was about getting closer to the truth.
He truly didn’t care what method you used if it fit the question. He had a great academic pedigree (U-Chicago, U-Michigan) but he wasn’t elitist. He wanted to hear from smart people, and he believed in demystifying the academy, making it accessible.
The thread has since been deleted, but he shared a story awhile back about why he always took calls from students who were interested in the program. I remember when I was applying to PhD programs, he called me one weekend to talk – about my interests, the department, how the process was going.
Everyone is busy; he made the time. A lot of folks have mentioned that Bear was a connoisseur of good food, and he was. When I was planning a trip to Germany last year, Bear shared his favorite restaurants in Berlin.
Because of course he had favorite restaurants in Berlin. I think he also knew every chef in Columbus, and he loved to show visitors all the best spots. But he was just as happy in a dumpling stall in the back of a grocery store.
He was all about substance, no drama. I’ve been fortunate to have terrific professors, but Bear was an unusually good professor. Grad students are great at tearing apart a piece of scholarship.
And that’s important. But Bear insisted that we also ask what was good about a piece. After all, he would say, these are smart people, and their work was published for a reason.
That approach cultivated humility (there are always tradeoffs in research) but was also encouraging. If first and second year graduate students think pieces published by top scholars in good journals are bad b/c we only focus on downsides, how could we possibly do good work?
He was also a wise and kind mentor. Bear blended an ability to support me, guide my work, and give me difficult feedback when I needed it.
I remember one situation in which - in a public setting - I had not been at my best. Bear corrected me firmly, kindly – and privately. I am as grateful for that feedback as any positive feedback he gave me. And I often left our advising sessions saying to myself “he is a good fucking dude.” There are more articulate ways of saying that, but that’s the way I felt when I left our meetings.
That’s the way I feel now, and he will be sorely missed.
Andy Goodhart (Political Science Department, Ohio State University
Bear was a friend and a colleague, and I will miss him tremendously.
Over these past 16 years, we’ve shared hallway chats and text chains, comps committees and advisees, IR admissions strategizing, congrats and commiserations, a loathing of Steven Pinker’s thesis, and so on.
Bear was generous, brilliant, brimming with kindness, and a rock of integrity. His loss reverberates in so many spaces.
For me, personally, Bear’s unwavering support and committed friendship have been invaluable in the department and in the discipline. And, what a great laugh.
I am sad for the conversations we hadn't yet had and now can't, and those that we were in the middle of that have now so abruptly ended. From the students in his lab and in the program, to colleagues across the widest range of perspectives, background, methods, and personalities, there are nothing but similar stories of time, and attention, and openness, and care.
Alongside the intellectual electricity he generated, Bear truly was making the discipline a more inclusive and welcoming space, one person at a time, not with great fanfare but with tremendous perseverance and such faith in humankind. His last text began, “Anyway, I have to sleep, but just one more thing …”
Rest in peace, Bear; your memory is truly a blessing to all who knew you.
Jennifer Mitzen (Political Science Department, Ohio State University)
Bear was obviously a tremendous figure in his field, but his impact extended much further. Bear was kind, witty, and generous with his time. He recognized that not all students come in knowing how the unwritten curriculum works.
Although I never had the opportunity to take one of his classes, he was happy to help me anyway, including offering advice that helped me in graduate school. I know I am far from the only one he influenced. We lost him too soon, but never his legacy.
Justin Canfil (Harvard University)
Bear was an absolute joy to work with and made the whole department better by his presence.
I first met Bear at Harvard in 2006, where he was a professor I was just a visiting fellow. Though I was a bit intimidated to meet him, I was immediately impressed with how open, approachable, and friendly Bear was; and how willing he was to take seriously the ideas of someone very early in their academic journey.
It is clear to see how he has been an amazing teacher and mentor to so many students over the years. I've been lucky to call him a colleague and friend for the last nearly 10 years. Losing Bear is a terrible blow and I feel we are all lessened to be without him.
PS: Looking through my files, I only have two photos of us together. Behind the camera is an OSU photographer telling us to look serious and scholarly.
Skyler Cranmer (Political Science Department, Ohio State University)
Bear is probably one of the reasons I made it into graduate school. I can never thank him enough for writing the countless letters of recommendation, teaching me R, letting me sit in on his graduate course, or helping me with thesis research.
Even after I left OSU he was still a mentor who offered advice, let me attend his virtual class, and was always happy to chat at conferences and hear what I was working on.
Bear was a true mentor to so many of us, but beyond that he was an incredible human being. My favorite chats with him were always discussing the best local cuisine.
He is one of the few people who knew my favorite hole in the wall Italian place because it had an amazing red sauce. He pointed me towards Commune which is an incredible even with vegetarian food even if he was a meat type of guy!
His kindness and empathy are irreplaceable in this dark world fraught with conflict. Before I went to graduate school I remember how supportive he was while I was going through my difficult divorce and was surviving as a single mom because my son and his daughter were the same age.
He understood the difficult path I was facing ahead moving across states to start my doctoral program. His kindness in that moment has inspired me to advocate for graduate students fighting through insurmountable odds to succeed.
Autumn Perkey (University of Maryland College Park)
Bear and I started a dialogue when I reviewed Only the Dead. He has been a kind and generous friend since, joining us twice at West Point to discuss big IR questions in support of policy work.
My favorite memory of Bear, though, is having lunch at Hattie B's in Nashville together. We kept missing our offramp, driving in circles, talking about slow food and IR and IR and slow food. We finally got there, waited in line, talked about food, ate food, talked about our families, talked about food. A fabulous time with a fabulous guy.
Simply a kind, generous, loving, brilliant man.
Jordan Becker (Department of Social Sciences, United States Military Academy, West Point)
Bear was the best advisor I could have had, and was also so much more than that.
Since I have been at Ohio State, he has been a constant source of advice, support, and inspiration. He showed me that we can ask big theoretical questions while staying intellectually humble by reading widely and charitably, seeing the value in everything even if it was unfamiliar.
He is certainly the only person who would have recommended a paper in a hard science journal and a work of historical sociology to me on the same project. He was unbelievably generous with his time and unfailingly supportive.
No matter what, I always knew implicitly that Bear believed in my work and the work we did together.
No matter what ideas I came to him with, and some of them were very bad, he saw the promise and always knew how to redirect me into something good.
He fostered a community in the lab that not only produced great research but was a kind, supportive space suffused with his curiosity and kindness.
Bear was always more than just a colleague and advisor, though. Like many people, I benefited constantly from his knowledge of Columbus.
No one else could have made a meal held after hours in a bagel shop the highlight of a conference. But more than that, he was always there to check in and provide support when things were not going well; he cared uncommonly much about his students as people.
We have all lost more than a colleague; he is irreplaceable. I will miss him terribly.
I only met Bear a few times but he made a real impression on me as a graduate student. I greatly admired his work and his general approach to the study of international politics.
Some of the best books I've ever read were on his recommendation (like Schelling's Micromotives and Macrobehavior), and I've recommended them to countless others. And he was incredibly open-minded, generous with his time, and kind--for instance, kind enough to always pretend to remember a lowly graduate student (me) when I ran into him at conferences.
He will be greatly missed.
Nick Anderson (The George Washington University)
It is said that the real goodbye is not the goodbye at the pavilion; it's just another morning as usual, but some people stayed in yesterday forever. Bear must have understood this well.
He cared so deeply and consistently for the people around him. He checked in every day when I was exposed to Covid. He took me to lunch when I was in unusual circumstances. He patiently and thoughtfully discussed research with me.
Bear was, without a doubt, a constant reminder of the humanity in this profession. Farewell forever is an afterthought for us, one that leaves you and me at our wits' end.
Losing someone as close as Bear is like what Jeff Vandermeer wrote: "There are certain kinds of deaths you should not be expected to relive, certain kinds of connections so deep that when they are broken, you feel the snap of the link inside you." These are always the cruelest departures, because they never gave us a chance to say goodbye properly.
Rest in peace, Bear. I hope we get to say goodbye properly in the next life.
Zhiqin Gao (Political Science Department, Ohio State University)
I feel lucky that I got to know Bear in so many ways – as a colleague, as another dad waiting to pick up their daughter from daycare, and of course as a gourmand.
Talking with Bear on the playground after preschool, we’d talk about chili crisp as often as we’d talk about war and peace and he brought the same passionate, thoughtful engagement to it all. As a colleague, his excitement about research was infectious and his curiosity was stimulating.
But beyond his intellectual firepower, I will always remember and strive to emulate the kindness he showed to everyone and, when the occasion called for it, the outrage he expressed when people were mistreated. He made our department – and Columbus – a better place. I’m so sad for all the conversations we’ll never get a chance to have and will miss him terribly.
Benjamin McKean (Political Science Department, Ohio State University)
I was chatting once with Bear and sardines came up in conversation. I commented that I don't care for sardines, which prompted a very animated Bear to say with conviction that "you just haven't tried the right sardines!" (Spoiler alert: he was right.)
He went on to recommend one of his favorite types (Nuri from Portugal) and sent a surprisingly interesting video that described their production. He also pointed me toward his favorite dealer for canned fish and seafood (!) who is a farmer who branched out from growing tomatoes to selling specialty canned fish. You can't make this up and, the thing is, it was a genuinely interesting conversation.
Bear knew about so many things, and he shared his enthusiasm along with his knowledge.
Andy Goodhart (Political Science Department, Ohio State University)
Bear was my undergraduate advisor and the reason I became a political scientist. He was my oldest friend in the discipline, and I am deeply honored to have known him.
I cannot express in words what his support through these years has meant to me or how much he changed and shaped my life. He was a rock for me throughout grad school and once I became a professor. I knew he always had my back and that he always believed in me. When others put me down or when I doubted myself, he was always there to build me up again.
Without fail. Always so wise, so kind, and so thoughtful. Knowing that he was proud of me when I published my first solo article and later my book meant the world to me. The fact that I knew he believed in me got me through a lot in ways I cannot adequately describe.
He was one of the first people I called when I got job interviews and the first person I called once I got home from them. I love that we got to teach a year long class together during the pandemic. I felt so lucky to have been able to share that experience with him. As I see the posts on social media about him, I know mine is not the only heart that is broken by this news. He was so kind to so many people.
I have yet to fully process that he is gone. I cannot understand not seeing him at future conferences. My deepest sympathies go out to Kristen, Molly, and all his family. The IR community has lost a true gem. He was one of the smartest people I have ever known, an eloquent writer, and a phenomenal teacher.
The depth of the grief I'm feeling is hard to describe. I have never lost a close friend like this, who is also so deeply connected to how my adult life unfolded. But I am profoundly thankful to have had Bear in my life.
I know not everyone has someone who comes into their life at a critical point, and who knows how to do and say everything right to help them grow into the person they were meant to be. But Bear was that for me. And I will miss him terribly.
Sarah Croco (University of Maryland College Park)
The field of political science lost a deeply caring visionary and I wanted to share my gratitude for having known Bear.
Bear played a crucial role at hard times in my life, he convinced me to wait another year when I didn’t receive funding to join the PhD program and helped me revise my proposal, which is one of the main reasons I am a grad student at OSU today.
I will also not forget the award he nominated me for when I had lost confidence in my abilities. I will remember him not only as a brilliant scholar and an outstanding teacher, but also as someone who saw potential well beyond his circle, taught his students to dare and most of all, as a fundamentally kind and humane person.
I will seek to follow his model in my career and life.
Laurie Georges (Political Science Department, Ohio State University)
Bear was more than just an advisor and mentor to me; he was a warm and compassionate friend who always took the time to listen to my ideas and provide thoughtful feedback, even when he was busy with his own research and responsibilities.
His unwavering support and guidance during my time at OSU were invaluable, and I will always be grateful for his contributions to my academic and personal growth. He went above and beyond to help me achieve my goals, including designing a one-credit syllabus for my independent study on computational modeling and encouraging me to pursue my interests in discourse analysis.
He always had an open-door policy and went out of his way to help me connect with faculty members in the computational linguistics department, which helped me tremendously in my research. I will never forget the day when he brought me into his lab, encouraged me to lead a project, and inspired me to self-study cutting-edge techniques that were instrumental in my development as a scholar.
Bear's kind and selfless nature was a true reflection of his character. He left the book on the diffusion of democracy in my mailbox without telling me it was him, but I knew it must be him because he was always willing to share his knowledge and expertise with his students.
He invited me and Sunny for lunch to hear our experience with teaching Quant II, and he even offered to drive me to the restaurant. During the ride, he shared stories about his adorable daughter and his love for food, making the whole experience unforgettable. I was looking forward to showing him my progress on my dissertation and getting to know him better while working in his lab.
The news of his hospitalization and loss has left a huge void in my heart. Bear's legacy will continue to live on through the countless contributions he made to the field of political science and to the lives of his students and colleagues. I will always cherish the lessons he taught me, both professionally and personally, and strive to become a person as kind, warm, inclusive, conscientious, and meticulous as him.
He was a true inspiration to me and to so many others, and his impact will be felt for years to come.
Liuya Zhang (Political Science Department, Ohio State University)
I first met Bear in Ann Arbor in 1990, when we were both graduate students. Over the nearly quarter century since, I consider myself very lucky to have benefitted from his careful and agile mind, his dry humor, and most importantly his warm and generous spirit.
I think that many scholars and students in the field found themselves flocking to Bear because intellectual conversations with him tended to be so deeply rewarding, as Bear listened so carefully, offered such creative and sharp insights, and provided a personal warmth that was so welcoming and encouraging to open and constructive exchanges.
His work constitutes a tremendous legacy, marking a scholar unafraid to ask the biggest questions, and patient enough to exercise the utmost care and attention to detail in everything he did.
I and everyone who knew Bear will miss him greatly.
Dani Reiter, Emory University
Professor Bear Braumoeller's commitment to the people in his life, from his daughter and family to the students he mentored and colleagues he befriended is legendary, matching his larger than life stature and instantly recognizable laugh.
Beyond his work as a Professor, I will cherish the recipes, comics, and humorous essays he shared, and hope the mark he left on us all stands as a testament to the distinct privilege it was to know him and the tremendous loss felt by his early passing.
Bear remains one of my favorite people at Ohio State and one of the best people I've met during my time in academia. He cared deeply about the students at Ohio State and beyond, and for the advancement of women and underrepresented groups in academia and life generally. Bear was an amazing ‘girl dad’, advocate, & scholar who always offered a listening ear and the best advice.
Kaitlin Engelbrecht (Political Science Department, Ohio State University)
You spoke softly for the toughest cause, and no cause was too small for your complete attention. You were a dependable presence in turbulent times and inspired determination amongst us grad students when giving up felt like the easiest way out.
To lose you at the beginning of summer meant that part of me still expects to see you in the fall; to hash out our kooky research ideas in the hallways, to leave copies of the Science Magazine in the lounge, and to share yet one more secret to the best meals around town.
Because of you, I will never buy another battery farm turkey for my Thanksgiving table. We might not be those who knew you the best, but every little bit that we did know of you was so hard to lose.
I know fairness has nothing to do with it, but I can’t help but feel that losing Bear is monumentally unfair. He was good, he was patient, and he always tried to be an even better version of himself. I will remember the good times he brought and I hope to pass that goodness on.
Jyhjong Hwang (Political Science Department, Ohio State University)
I am deeply saddened by the abrupt and terrible news and don’t even know where to start.
My first reaction was “oh my god no, another amazing thinker leaves us.” By thinker, I didn’t mean only a theorist, but someone who because he thinks about the deep questions never forgets what truly matters: people, love, food, knowledge, politics.
I wasn’t one of his students, and yet, Bear and I would randomly exchange emails about complexity theory or AI; I would randomly meet him in the mailroom and he would answer my random questions with great pleasure and genuine interest.
He was so generous and caring. During the class I took with him, and in spite of his skepticism, he let me pursue all of my weird quantum-related ideas. In spite of his skepticism, he provided honest and very helpful feedback. I couldn’t thank him enough for granting me the possibility and the time to enjoy the freedom of thought that I so deeply value.
During another class, I asked him how important he thought Twitter was to grad students. He didn’t have to, but he generously posted that question on Twitter and received many responses. I read the responses and decided to create an account. I learned a lot about critical theories of AI thanks to him.
I could also see Bear’s tweets. He would tweet about Richard Feynman’s epistemological explanations or pedagogical efforts. Bear seemed to admire that Feynman was not only a great physicist but also a great thinker, a great pedagogue and someone who would go beyond his duties to help others.
I’m sure he would have been happy to hear me say that he succeeded in achieving what he admired.
Bear was the kind of person who makes the distinction between being a great scholar, a great teacher, and a great person collapse. He was all of these. Bear had this capacity to make a step toward the other, always in the most humble, genuine, generous, and altruistic way. I will miss his generosity and open-mindedness very much.
This is a great loss for us, for the department, and for the world. He will not be forgotten.
Adrian Calmettes (Political Science Department, Ohio State University)
It has been devastating to lose my dear friend and brilliant colleague, Bear Braumoeller. He leaves gaping holes in our academic family’s hearts on the 2nd floor of Derby Hall.
His quick wit and smile made him fast friends with many and he had a depth of caring that is treasured in a close friend.
He was fiercely determined to assist and improve The Ohio State University for all who walk around The Oval. That determination to get things done despite the bureaucratic hurdles still makes me smile.
He truly was brilliant. His fellowship this academic year at the Nobel Institute is just one more piece of testimony to that.
As well wishes come in from academics around the world to us here in the department, his impact on the study of International Relations and Political Science is also clear.
His mentorship of students was of the utmost importance to him and will be part of his legacy.
I will miss him terribly and deeply.
Janet Box-Steffensmeier, colleague and friend of Bear's (Political Science Department, Ohio State University)