When a friend gets a deserved plum promotion, applause is in order, even through the sadness of knowing that the friend must depart to accept it.
That’s how many Minnesota public policy wonks are receiving news that University of Minnesota Humphrey Institute Dean J. Brian Atwood has been elected chairman of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee, and will leave Minnesota shortly to assume that influential post in Paris.
Atwood’s return to international development work is a local-guy-makes-good story. The top administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development during President Bill Clinton’s administration, Atwood stepped back from development policy to take the Humphrey Institute’s helm eight years ago. He adapted readily to Minnesota’s premier academic and research center for public policy, bringing fresh ideas and some needed focus to its work.
“Brian put zip back into it,” said former Vice President Walter Mondale of Atwood’s impact on the Institute. He raised its national prominence and increased its enrollment, Mondale said. Atwood’s watch included the creation of the Center for the Study of Politics and Government, a steady source of reliable information and analysis of Minnesota politics.
It’s reassuring to know that Atwood will retain his faculty appointment at the University of Minnesota, suggesting that he’ll be back when his OECD gig ends. Meanwhile, he’ll be well positioned to receive visiting Minnesota students and faculty studying how the world’s leading nations, working cooperatively, can improve the lot of under-developed ones. May the applause Atwood hears in coming days reinforce his resolve to return.