William B. Bader was one of the first Americans of his generation to profit from the Fulbright experience, and his subsequent career made him an exemplary representative of the Fulbright spirit. In 1953 Bader was among the first Fulbright participants of a class sent to Germany.
As a student in Munich, he recalled his first impressions on a visit to Vienna: “ ...I saw a city with the hues and moods of Orson Welles’ “Third Man;” a city with the Hofburg adorned with 50-foot portraits of Stalin and Lenin. It was a city shattered by war, burdened by pangs of guilt and fraught with despair. I vowed to chronicle the courage and grit of the Austrian people during the long march from occupation to liberation."
Those experiences in post-war Vienna aroused his interest in European history and he continued his studies at Princeton University, where he earned a MA and Ph.D. in history under the internationally renowned historian, Gordon Craig. He later spent over a year in Vienna in the 1960s doing research and conducting interviews with major Austrian political figures during the occupation years.
This material provided the basis for his book, “Austria Between East and West, 1945-1955” and led to an noteworthy career in the field of international policy development. In commenting on his Fulbright experience in the early 1950s Bader observed: “I think we were what Senator Fulbright wanted for that program. Quite literally none of us had ever been out of the country. None of us had any idea what Europe was like, or its peoples. We arrived in a country devastated by the war, bereft of hope….In response, we learned, we saw, and we were changed. We were changed fundamentally.”
During his stay as a Fulbright student in Munich, William Bader also met his wife, Gretta Lange, today a well known artist and sculptor, whose works are on display at the National Building Museum and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., where her bust of J. William Fulbright is highly revered. Their Christmas 1953 honeymoon in Vienna began in the Sacherhotel that had been vacated just two weeks previously by the British authorities who had occupied it and used it as their headquarters.
In the following years, Bader's career mirrored Fulbright’s vision and hope of creating “emerging young leaders.” As a Foreign Service Officer, William Bader served in the State Department’s Office of Regional and Political Military Affairs as well as on Senator Fulbright’s Foreign Relations Committee. From the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he went on to hold a number of important positions as Ford Foundation representative to Europe, Economics Fellow at the World Bank, President of the Eurasia Foundation, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense.
As an Associate Director of the U.S. Information Agency, he was responsible for the Bureau for Educational and Cultural Affairs at a time when a reorganization of U.S. foreign affairs agencies was underway. He returned to the State Department as Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs from 1998-2001. Among his responsibilities at that time was the consolidation of the U.S. Information Agency and its programs – including the Fulbright legacy – with the State Department.
When asked what has changed since his time as a Fulbright student in the early 1950s, Dr. Bader remarked: “During my time, it was an open competition. Students from twelve colleges I had never heard of participated, and close to half of the first Fulbright class to Germany were musicians, singers and artists. To my knowledge none of these students went to Germany to gain academic credits for graduate school or to do research for their Ph.D. We all went to have what Senator Fulbright called an "intense experience."
In closing, Bader reflected on the Fulbright Program: “The Fulbright Program created by Senator Fulbright is not just about scholarship, writing and finishing books and articles, or studying in the host country, all of which was warmly applauded by the good Senator. It is also potentially a deep formative experience and a personal adventure that can be not only meaningful for your life but also shapes who you are and what you want to accomplish. Bless Senator Fulbright and his legacy for bringing us all such an opportunity.”