Harlan Cleveland: Diplomat, writer, legend

  • Article by: RODRIGO ZAMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 5, 2008 - 9:20 PM

Armed with intellect and humor, he had a wide-ranging life, including leading the Humphrey Institute.

Harlan Cleveland was a distinguished diplomat, writer and founder of the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.

"He was a legend," said Humphrey Institute Dean J. Brian Atwood. "He was a brilliant writer, thinker and leader."

Cleveland died May 30 from natural causes in Sterling, Va. He was 90.

The astute and intellectual Cleveland was born in New York City in 1918. He graduated from Princeton University in 1938 and continued on to Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. Through the 1940s, he worked as an economic warfare specialist in Washington and later as a United Nations relief and rehabilitation administrator in Italy and China.

In 1948 he joined the Economic Cooperation Administration, where he served as director of the China Aid Program, then developed and managed U.S. aid to eight East Asian countries and later became the supervisor of the Marshall Plan for European recovery.

Cleveland left Washington in 1953 to become executive editor of the Reporter magazine. In 1956, he was appointed dean of the Maxwell Graduate School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.

Cleveland served as assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs in the administration of President John F. Kennedy in the early 1960s. In 1965, he was appointed U.S. ambassador to NATO by President Lyndon Johnson and served until 1969. He then served as the president of the University of Hawaii until 1974.

From 1974 to 1980 he developed and directed the Program in International Affairs of The Aspen Institute.

Throughout the 1980s, Cleveland served as the founding dean of the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, a graduate school, research think tank and center for leadership education. From 1987 to 1993, he also wrote a fortnightly column on world affairs for the Star Tribune.

In 1991, he was elected to a five-year term as President of the World Academy of Art and Science, and in 1994 was elected chairman of the board of directors of the Volunteers in Technical Assistance.

"He was intense, quick, knowledgeable and self-deprecatingly funny," said former Star Tribune editor Robert White. "I remember he came back to writing for us after he had had, in effect, a stroke. When it was over, he immediately came back to writing."

Cleveland was granted 22 honorary degrees, the U.S. Medal of Freedom, Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson Award and the Peace Corps' Leader for Peace Award. He also authored hundreds of articles and 12 books.

"I remember when he was dean of the Humphrey Institute and had what he called his 'non-retirement party,'" White said. "That was fairly typical of him because he wasn't ready to go into that good night."

Cleveland is survived by his wife of 66 years, Lois, of Sterling, Va., his three children, Zoë, Melantha and Alan, all of Palmyra, Va., and by his grandson, Jan Harlan Kalicki of Littleton, Colo.

A memorial service will be held at 1:30 p.m. June 19 at the chapel at Falcon's Landing in Sterling.

Rodrigo Zamith • 612-673-4895

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