A man who attended Furman University on a golf scholarship is set to become the next prime minister of Finland.
Alexander Stubb, who graduated from the Greenville college in 1993, is the leader of the Scandinavian country’s largest party, The National Coalition Party, said Brent Nelsen, a political science professor who taught Stubb years ago.
The leader of the largest party becomes prime minister, he said.
“Everybody knew that he was destined for big things,” said Nelsen, who co-authored a book with Stubb in 1993 and who remains friends with him. “He was a larger-than-life personality.”
Calling himself “Finnish by birth but Southern by the grace of God,” according to Nelsen, Stubb came to Greenville in the late 1980s, just before Nelsen became a member of the political science faculty.
Originally at Furman on a golf scholarhship, Stubb played for a while, but realized he couldn’t be a serious student and play golf too, said Furman spokesman Vince Moore.
So he abandoned the links for his studies, he said, eventually winning the Bradshaw-Feaster Medal for General Excellence as the top male graduate in the class.
Few Furman students had ever met a cosmopolitan European like Stubb, Nelsen said, and he was admired by students and faculty alike.
“He really loved reading old texts -- Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli. And he talked a lot about political ideas,” he said. “And he took a course with me on the international political economy and learned about trade and finance.”
After graduating, Stubb helped Nelsen write “The European Union: Readings on the Theory and Practice of European Integration,” currently in its fourth edition.
“He came to America and learned about the European Union,” Nelsen said. “And saw it was a great time to get involved in European affairs.”
Stubb attended the Sorbonne, the College of Europe and the London School of Economics before becoming the Finnish foreign minister, Nelsen said.
He was elected as one of Finland’s representatives to the European Parliament and most recently served as Finland’s minister for European affairs and foreign trade, according to Furman.
Over the years, the two have visited one another, here and in Europe, with Stubb speaking to a number of Furman groups that Nelsen has led.
Stubb is considered a fiscal conservative but a social liberal, Nelsen said.
And as prime minister he faces a stubborn economic recession combined with a recent decline in exports and a national debt that has threatened to lower the country’s AAA rating, he said.
“Alex is going to have a tough job economically stabilizing the debt and keeping unemployment from getting out of control,” he said. “And there is a debate about Finland joining NATO. That would be huge.”