Illinois State University alumnus Donald McHenry, a former American diplomat who was the top envoy to the United Nations during the Iranian hostage crisis, has made a $3 million gift to the university to fund a visiting professor of diplomacy and international affairs.
McHenry, a 1957 graduate, served as Ambassador and U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 1979 to 1981 as a member of President Jimmy Carter’s cabinet.
“His office was the world,” said Sheri Noren Everts, interim president of Illinois State. “We are incredibly grateful for this extraordinary gift that will allow our students a window into his world.”
McHenry said he appreciates the opportunity to help the university move forward in making global issues a part of every student’s curriculum.
“The world has no borders,” said McHenry, who grew up in East St. Louis with a single mother who encouraged education. “It is my hope that this professorship will inspire students to see the possibilities and become engaged leaders, whether in their communities or in regional, national and international initiatives.”
The visiting professor post could be filled by a diplomat or high-ranking official in the legislative or executive branches of the federal government, a leader from an international/regional organization or a multinational corporation. The professor will serve up to two years.
Erin Minne, vice president of University Advancement, said McHenry’s endowed gift will continue the story he started at Illinois State. He was a champion debater on the forensics team and was named the nation’s most outstanding debater in 1956. In 1980, he received an honorary doctorate from Illinois State and received the university’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1990.
“Mr. McHenry’s gift tells a story for all of us, that education is empowering and that dreams start here,” Minné said. “His passion for public service will continue through the students who will cross our campus for years to come.”
The diplomat’s legacy also will be documented in another way. He has pledged his personal papers, which chronicle his career, to Milner Library.
McHenry was an involved student leader while attending Illinois State at the dawn of the Civil Rights revolution, soon after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the desegregation of public schools. He helped launch and lead a local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
He earned a master’s degree in speech and political science from Southern Illinois University and pursued doctoral studies at Georgetown University, where he is a Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at the School of Foreign Service.
Prior to his appointment as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., he served as Ambassador and U.S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations Security Council. He also served in the U.S. Department of State and joined the Brookings Institution and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, both prestigious Washington, D.C.-based think tanks. McHenry is the author of Micronesia: Trust Betrayed.
He has served on the board of directors of several major corporations, including International Paper and AT&T. He is a director of the Coca Cola Company. He has also served on the boards of the Ford Foundation, the Council of Foreign Relations and the Brookings Institution. McHenry is trustee emeritus of the Mayo Clinic and Columbia University and chairman emeritus of Africare.