Originally published on March 8, 2021
Schar School of Policy and Government Professor Emerita Hazel M. McFerson died February 27 at her home in Silver Spring, Md. She was 78.
Dr. McFerson began teaching in George Mason University’s Department of Public and International Affairs in 2002 and retired in 2015 shortly after the creation of the Schar School. She had been at Mason in various roles since 1990, including as a professor at the Institute of Conflict
Analysis and Resolution (now the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution).
Dr. McFerson touched many lives during her career with a passion for teaching that continued beyond the classroom. “The introduction to Critical Race Theory pushed me towards an affinity for social justice,” said Timothy Holman, Jr. (BA, Government and International Politics, ’12), a health equity policy administrator in his hometown of Kansas City, Mo.
“She not only was a dynamic, witty, instructor, but she was a professor who took an interest in who I was as a person,” he said. “This affirmed me as a first-generation Black college student who found it difficult to identify with the culture of a diverse, albeit predominately white institution. Dr. McFerson pushed me to be excellent in my studies and in my being…I will miss her tremendously and will carry on the spirit of public service [in her honor].”
Dr. McFerson is survived by her husband of 51 years, Salvatore Schiavo-Campo, an economist and former professor and chairman of economics at the University of Massachusetts. He is also a former senior official at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
Born in Boston on May 15, 1942, Dr. McFerson grew up in the Orchard Park Housing Project in Roxbury and turned her humble beginnings into academic inspiration. She studied and taught gender politics, conflict analysis, race and ethnic relations, and governance, among other subjects. Her daughter Mara Schiavocampo, an Emmy-winning television journalist, wrote in a blog post, “Your academic career was all about helping people understand systemic racism way before it became cool.”
Dr. McFerson held a PhD in politics from Brandeis University, a master’s degree from the Fletcher School of International Law and Diplomacy, and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Massachusetts at Boston. She was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Asia and the Pacific, Manila, Philippines, and was a Fulbright Specialist.
Dr. McFerson is survived by her children Rino, Pia, and Mara, seven grandchildren, and a great-grandson.