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Vera Micheles Dean was born in St. Petersburg, Russia. Her father Alexander Micheles spent many years in the USA, sometimes working as a reporter for Jewish newspapers in New York City. She learned several languages as a child and was fluent in seven, including Russian, English, German, and French. During the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the family fled the country, making their way from Finland to England. Vera was sent to the USA to live in Boston with a guardian. She attended business school and worked as a stenographer for a while. In 1921, she enrolled at Radcliffe College, from which she graduated Phi Beta Kappa. With the help of a Carnegie Endowment fellowship, she attended Yale University and obtained an M.A. in international law in 1926. Then she returned to Radcliffe to earn a doctorate in the new field of international law and relations in 1928. She began her career working for the Foreign Policy Association. In 1929, she married William Johnson Dean, a New York lawyer, with whom she had two children. She directed research on foreign policy and edited several periodicals, including the Foreign Policy Bulletin. She became a pioneer in improving popular understanding of international relations. She opposed American isolationism at the start of World War II, and her opinions on collective security for world peace were influential enough to get her invited to advise the American delegation at the founding of the United Nations. She also worked as UN correspondent to India. She published numerous books on international politics, including Foreign Policy Without Fear (1953) and Builders of Emerging Nations (1961). She also taught at Barnard College, Harvard, and Smith College, and held various visiting teaching positions at colleges throughout the country. At the University of Rochester, she directed the Non-Western Civilization Program from 1954 to 1961. In 1962, she joined New York University’s Graduate School of Public Administration, where she taught seminars in international administration and political science of underdeveloped areas of the world.
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