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Remembering Ambassador Edward J. Perkins

Remembering Ambassador Edward J. Perkins

Edward J. Perkins portrait

Ambassador Edward J. Perkins led a remarkable life – one dedicated to service and marked by his unmatched determination to implement change.

Perkins, who joined the OU community in 1996 as the first executive director of OU’s International Programs Center – a precursor to the David L. Boren College of International Studies – passed away Nov. 7 at the age of 92.

While he did not plan to stay at OU for more than five years, he quickly grew to love the environment and the people. Perkins remained at OU for a decade before retiring to Washington, D.C., where he continued to advocate for the advancement of internationalization and global diplomacy.

Before his time at OU, Perkins held a lengthy career in service to his country.

After serving three years in the U.S. Army and four years in the U.S. Marine Corps, he joined the United States Department of State and U.S. Foreign Service. He was appointed ambassador to Liberia in 1985, and in 1986, he became the first Black individual appointed as ambassador to South Africa, where he spent the next three years working to dismantle apartheid.  

Following his time in South Africa, Perkins returned to the United States, where he served as director general of the Foreign Service before becoming ambassador to the United Nations and U.S. representative to the United Nations Security Council in 1992.

Perkins was later named ambassador to Australia, where he served until his retirement from the Foreign Service in 1996. He retired with the rank of career minister, and he joined the OU community later that year.

Throughout his life, Perkins was honored with numerous prestigious awards, including the Presidential Distinguished and Meritorious Service Award; the Department of State’s Distinguished Honor and Superior Honor Award; the University of Southern California’s Distinguished Alumni Award; and the Director General’s Cup, awarded by the Department of State.

He published several articles on foreign policy and most recently co-authored Mr. Ambassador, Warrior for Peace, a memoir of his time serving as a Foreign Service officer.

The Edward J. Perkins Board Room in Farzaneh Hall, named in his honor in 2015, houses rare copies of important United Nations documents.

Those who knew Ambassador Perkins will remember him for his warmth, his enthusiasm for life and his wonderful stories.


By Mackenzie Scheer

Article Published:  Wednesday, November 18, 2020