Stephen H. Balch is an American conservative scholar and higher education reformer. He was the founding president of the National Association of Scholars from 1987 to 2009.
Balch was born on January 31, 1944, into a Jewish family and grew up in Brooklyn, New York City. In 1979 he married Maria Schelz, and they have two children: Leah and Daniel.
Balch received a bachelor's degree, magna cum laude, from Brooklyn College, City University of New York, in 1964. He received his master's degree (1967) and Ph.D. (1972) in political science from the University of California in Berkeley, where his dissertation supervisor was Nelson W. Polsby. It was during the Berkeley riots that he became a conservative. He now identifies as a Republican.
In his early career, Balch held numerous faculty positions. He was instructor of government at the University of San Francisco (1969–1970), acting instructor of political science at the University of California in Berkeley (1970–1971), instructor of political science at Rutgers University in New Brunswick (1971–1972), assistant professor of urban policy and programs at the Office of Urban Policy and Programs in the City University of New York's Graduate Center (1973–1974), assistant professor and later associate professor of government at John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York for fourteen years, during which he joined Midge Decter's Committee for the Free World and founded the Campus Coalition for Democracy in 1982. In 1987, Balch left his academic position and founded the National Association of Scholars (NAS), a membership organization of academic professionals opposed to political correctness in higher education. He served as president of the NAS for twenty-one years between 1987 and 2008, was founder and vice president of the American Academy for Liberal Education (an accrediting agency devoted to enriching content and enhancing the rigor of liberal education), was founder and director of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (1994–2011), served on the board of trustees for Medaille College in Buffalo, New York (1997–2003), was director of the Philadelphia Society (2002–2006), chairman of the National Association of Scholars from 2009 to 2012, and is currently a member of its steering committee and board (2012–present). (The NAS now has about 3,000 academic members and forty-seven state affiliates.) Since 2010, Balch has been a board member of the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization. In the fall of 2012, Balch founded the Institute for the Study of Western Civilization at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. He is chairman of the Association for the Study of Free Institutions (2014–present), member of the board of the Alliance for Liberal Learning (2015–present), president of the West Texas/Eastern New Mexico Phi Beta Kappa Association (2016–present), president of Lambda of Texas, Texas Tech University's Phi Beta Kappa Chapter, and member of the board of the American Academy for Liberal Education (2016–present).
As the chief executive officer of the National Association of Scholars (NAS), Balch has received extensive coverage in the national and educational media. He has played a key role in the founding of numerous academic programs at American universities and colleges focused on the study of free institutions and Western civilization.
He is also co-author of several major NAS studies of curriculum evolution and problems, including The Dissolution of General Education: 1914–1993 and Losing the Big Picture: The Fragmentation of the English Major Since 1964. In addition, Balch serves as editor-in-chief of the NAS journal, Academic Questions.
Phi Beta Kappa 1964
American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow, 1972–1973
Danforth Foundation Associate, 1980–1984
Balch received the National Humanities Medal for distinguished service on behalf of the humanities, which was bestowed by President George W. Bush at the White House on November 15, 2007. This award cited him "for leadership and advocacy upholding the noblest traditions in higher education," and went on to say that "his work on behalf of reasoned scholarship in a free society has made him a leading champion of excellence and reform at our nation's universities." On February 27, 2009, Balch also received the Jeane Jordan Kirkpatrick Academic Freedom Award presented by the American Conservative Union Foundation and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.
Balch served as chairman of the New Jersey State Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights from 1985 to 1990, and was a member of the committee from 1990 to 2005. He was also a member of the National Advisory Board of the United States Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education from 2001 to 2004.