Blair ‘a bit nervous’ hours before Yale arrival

His class roster is finalized, his syllabus printed and ready to go. In mere hours, on the eve of his first class, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair will arrive on campus for the start of his teaching career.

And while Yale’s newest visiting professor does not break a sweat when staring down world leaders, when it comes to a class of eager Elis, it may be another story.

“I’m sort of a bit nervous for it, really,” Blair confided Thursday morning in a telephone interview with the News. “I was never a star student, and I’m coming along mixing with a whole lot of people who I’m sure are a whole lot more clever and smarter than I am.”

Blair, 55, begins on Friday his semester-long stint co-teaching a seminar on faith and globalization in the School of Management and Divinity School, for which hundreds of eager students applied for admission. He will also address Yale students, faculty and staff in a conversation with University President Richard Levin at Woolsey Hall tomorrow afternoon.

In the interview, Blair said he was particularly excited for the chance to teach, something he has not done before, and to be able to do it about a topic for which he cares deeply.

“These issues have to be explored in depth, not just through making speeches but through interacting with young people who are interested in the same topics,” Blair said. “The chance to actually come to such a great institution as Yale and be able to interact with students — for me, it’s a tremendous privilege.”

Blair’s eldest son, Euan Blair GRD ’08, graduated in the spring with a master’s degree in international relations, and the former prime minister said he was in part drawn to Yale because of the positive experience his son had at the University. His stint here as the Howland Distinguished Fellow will also allow him to further the work of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, which launched in May.

Blair said he hopes the class will be a model for teaching elsewhere around the world on the topic of faith. “There’s an opportunity here to do something that is really new and different and far-reaching in its effect,” he said.

Blair is expected to arrive on campus late this evening. Today, he is in New York City to tape an episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

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