Ambassador Thomas Pickering '53 Awarded Bowdoin Prize

Story posted May 14, 2005

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Bowdoin President Barry Mills (l.) and Ambassador Thomas Pickering at the Bowdoin Prize ceremony May 12.

Thomas R. Pickering, Class of 1953, was awarded the 14th Bowdoin Prize, the highest honor that the College bestows upon one of its members, at a special ceremony held on campus May 12, 2005.

The Bowdoin Prize was established in 1928 as a memorial to William John Curtis, LL.D., Class of 1875, by his wife and children. It is awarded every five years "to the graduate or former member of the College, or member of its Faculty at the time of the award, who shall have made during the period the most distinctive contribution in any field of human endeavor." It is awarded to those who, in the judgment of the award committee, are "recognized as having won national and not merely local distinction, or who, in the judgment of the committee, is fairly entitled to be so recognized."

Ambassador Pickering was chosen to receive the prize for his distinguished career as a statesman and diplomat. His nomination for the prize was confirmed by the Committee of Award, the members of which are the President of Harvard University, the President of Yale University, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Maine.

A native of Orange, N.J., Tom Pickering graduated cum laude from Bowdoin in 1953, with high honors in history. In 1954, he earned a master's degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to the University of Melbourne in Australia, and earned a second master's degree in 1956. In 1984, he was awarded an honorary doctor-of-laws degree from Bowdoin, and has received similar honors from 12 other universities.

Ambassador Pickering entered on active duty in the U.S. Navy from 1956 to 1959, and later served in the Naval Reserve to the grade of Lieutenant Commander. Between 1959 and 1961, he served in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research of the State Department, in the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and from 1962 to 1964 in Geneva as political adviser to the U.S. Delegation to the 18-Nation Disarmament Conference.

He served as U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs beginning in May 1997. Prior to that, he served briefly as the president of the Eurasia Foundation, a Washington-based organization that makes small grants and loans in the states of the former Soviet Union.

He holds the personal rank of Career Ambassador, the highest in the U.S. Foreign Service. In a diplomatic career spanning five decades, he has served as U.S. ambassador to the Russian Federation, India, Israel, El Salvador, Nigeria, and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. He also served on assignments in Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

In 1983 and in 1986, Ambassador Pickering won the Distinguished Presidential Award and, in 1996, the Department of State's highest award - the Distinguished Service Award. He is a member of the International Institute of Strategic Studies and the Council on Foreign Relations.

He served as U.S. Ambassador and Representative to the United Nations in New York from 1989 to 1992. He also served as Executive Secretary of the Department of State and Special Assistant to Secretaries William P. Rogers and Henry A. Kissinger from 1973 to 1974.

Tom Pickering is currently senior vice president for International Relations for Boeing. He joined the company and assumed this position in January 2001 upon his retirement as U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs. In this position, he oversees the company's international affairs, including those with foreign governments. He is a member of the company's Executive Council and reports to the Chairman.

The first Bowdoin Prize was awarded in 1933 to Dr. Fred Houdlett Albee, Class of 1899. Other previous Bowdoin Prize recipients are Senator Paul Douglas '13, Red Cross Commissioner Harvey Dow Gibson 1902, Bowdoin President Kenneth C.M. Sills 1901, Rear Admiral Donald MacMillan 1898, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harold Burton '09, journalist William Hodding Carter Jr. '27, penologist Austin H. MacCormick '15, Dr. Leonard W. Cronkhite '41, former Northeastern University President Asa S. Knowles '30, Olympic Gold Medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson '79, Bowdoin Professors Samuel S. Butcher and Dana W. Mayo, Senator George J. Mitchell '54, and most recently, former Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen '62.

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