University Libraries Announces The John N. Warfield Endowment for the Libraries

By Mark Schwartz, communications and marketing officer, University Libraries

John N. Warfield. Image courtesy of University Libraries

John N. Warfield. Image courtesy of University Libraries

Rosamond A. Warfield, the widow of the late Mason professor John N. Warfield, has established The John N. Warfield Endowment for the George Mason University Libraries to provide permanent and consistent funding for the preservation of the John N. Warfield Collection, which was gifted to the libraries in 2000.

The endowment will also fund acquisitions of scholarly research materials in subject areas of greatest interest to the professor.

Warfield was a pioneer in the field of computers and systems science, an interdisciplinary field, which studies complex systems in nature, human interaction and science. He died in 2009.

At Mason, Warfield served as director of the Institute for Information Technology and ended his career as director of the Institute for Advanced Study in the Integrative Sciences, a part of the Institute of Public Policy, now the School of Public Policy. He was a faculty member from 1984 until his retirement in 2000.

“Professor Warfield’s work is fascinating because of its interdisciplinary nature and its applicability to many disciplines outside of engineering,” says Theresa Calcagno, the liaison librarian for the Volgenau School of Engineering. “Interactive management, for example, provided a process for any organization to use to help solve complex problems.”

Warfield earned a PhD in electrical engineering from Purdue University and began his career studying electrical engineering and mathematics, leading him to work with early computer prototypes.

Warfield at work. Image courtesy of University Libraries

Warfield at work. Image courtesy of University Libraries

From his work in math and electrical engineering, he became interested in group pathologies and began to examine how and why people make decisions, especially in situations that involve a great deal of complexity. This led him to establish interactive management, a computer-assisted process designed to help groups manage complex problems unique to their organizations.

Beginning at the Battelle Memorial Institute through his teaching at the University of Virginia and Mason, he worked on the sociotechnology field of interpretive structural modeling and developed interactive management.

Warfield’s long and successful 60-year career yielded dozens of major publications, honors and awards. Two of his awards were conferred in 2006 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.: the Joseph G. Wohl Award for Outstanding Career Achievement and the Third Millennium Medal.

“The genius of Professor Warfield impacted the defense industry, government, the private sector and the academic world,” says John Zenelis, university librarian. “Warfield engaged in a variety of subjects, from electrical engineering to ‘thought about thought’ to the state of higher education. He wrote eight books and held two patents. Our Special Collections and Archives is proud to preserve his ideas and significant influence for posterity.”

Two permanent digital exhibits highlight materials from the Warfield collection and John N. Warfield Papers, 1931-2009, which include letters, photographs, drawings and audiovisual materials. These digital exhibits can be accessed through these portals: Attacking Complex Problems: The Life and Work of Dr. John N. Warfield and The John N. Warfield Digital Collection.

For more information regarding the Warfield collection and John N. Warfield papers, contact Special Collections and Archives at or 703-993-2220.

For information on contributing to the new endowment or supporting the University Libraries in other ways, contact Kathleen Kehoe at or 703-993-8740.