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The Honorable John Foster Dulles Receives Thayer Award

Categories: Thayer Award, Events & Awards

John Foster Dulles, 53rd Secretary of State, comes from a family long associated with U.S. foreign relations beginning with his great uncle, John Welsch, who was Minister to the Court of St. James from 1877 to 1879.

He is the third in three successive generations of his family to serve as Secretary. His grandfather, John W, Foster, a career officer in the diplomatic service, was Secretary of State under President Benjamin Harrison. His uncle, Robert Lansing, served in the post under President Woodrow Wilson.

In his immediate family, both his brother and sister exceed him in length of actual service in the Department of State for, though his services to the U.S. in diplomatic assignments extend over a 46-year period, his name has in the past appeared only briefly on the Department’s personnel rosters, in connection with special assignments.

However, his brother, Allen Welsh Dulles, now Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, was a foreign service officer from 1916 to 1926, and his sister, Eleanor Lansing Dulles, an expert on economics, has been with the Department since 1942.

Son of a Presbyterian minister, Mr. Dulles chose to follow the legal and diplomatic career of his illustrious grandfather in whose Washington home he was born on February 25, 1888, but he has also carried on a distinguished career as a layman in the Presbyterian church.

These wedded interests are apparent in his work. A friend once characterized him as “a lawyer by profession and an idealist by nature,” Along with his devotion to the law he has been active in the National Council of the Churches of Christ in America, and in 1940 was chosen to head the Council’s Commission for a Just and Durable Peace.

Mr. Dulles was a 19-year-old student at Princeton when he accompanied his grandfather to the Netherlands in 1907 for his first experience in diplomacy as a member of the secretariat at the second Hague peace conference.

A year later he graduated from Princeton, valedictorian of his class and a member of Phi Beta Kappa. After a year’s study at the Sorbonne in Paris, he returned to Washington where he studied law at George Washington University, again with top scholastic honors.

He then joined the New York law firm of Sullivan and Cromwell, specializing in international affairs, an association that was to continue, with interruptions for military service in World War I and frequent diplomatic assignments, until his appointment as a United States Senator from New York in 1949.

Early in 1917, President Wilson sent him to Panama to help bring about the alignment of Panama and other Central American states for defense of the Panama Canal. In that year, too, he was a United States member of the Pan-American Scientific Congress.

In 1918, after service as a captain and major, he was appointed assistant to the chairman of the War Trade Board, then joined President Wilson’s advisory staff at the Versailles peace conference. That led to assignments with the Reparations Commission and the Supreme Economic Council.

He was next called away from his practice in 1927 to serve as legal adviser on the Polish Plan of Financial Stabilization, and in 1933 was a representative at the Berlin debt conference.

In 1938 Mr. Dulles made a detailed study of the political and economic situation in the Par East.

When Governor Thomas E. Dewey of New York campaigned for the Presidency in 1944, Mr. Dulles served as his adviser on foreign policy. During that campaign, he became a close associate of Senator Arthur Vandenberg, with the result that the latter recommended Mr. Dulles for appointment to the United Nations Conference at San Francisco, in 1945. Subsequently ‘ Mr. Dulles was a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly in 1946, 1947, 1948—when he was Acting Chairman of the United States delegation—and 1950. In addition, he was an adviser to three Secretaries of State — Secretaries Byrnes, Marshall, and Acheson—at meetings of the Council of Foreign Ministers in 1945, 1947, and 1949.

He was appointed Consultant to the Department of State in 1950 and a year later was named special representative with the rank of Ambassador to negotiate the Japanese Peace Treaty, an assignment which culminated in the signing of the Treaty at San Francisco in September 1951.

Mr. Dulles took the oath of office as Secretary of State at a White House ceremony on January 21, 1953. He has represented the United States at every major international meeting in the last five years, including the Tenth Inter American Conference at Caracas, Venezuela, all Ministerial meetings of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, He was principal advisor to President Eisenhower at the Heads of Government meeting at Geneva, July 16-24, 1955, the Meeting of Presidents of the American Republics at Panama, July 20-29, 1956, and the meeting of the Heads of Government of the NATO nations in December of 1957. He recently returned from Ankara, Turkey, where he represented the United States as observer at the meeting of the Heads of Government of the Baghdad Pact nations, January 26-31, 1958.

Secretary Dulles is the author of War and Peace, first published in 1950 and reissued with a new preface in 1957. He has also contributed articles on international affairs to leading magazines.

Mr. Dulles married the former Janet Pomeroy Avery of Auburn, New York, in 1912. They have two sons and a daughter and eight grandchildren.

Thayer Award

Since 1958, the West Point Association of Graduates has presented the SYLVANUS THAYER AWARD to an outstanding citizen of the United States whose service and accomplishments in the national interest exemplify personal devotion to the ideals expressed in the West Point motto, “DUTY, HONOR, COUNTRY.”
The Sylvanus Thayer Award is funded by a generous endowment from E. Doug Kenna ’45 and his wife, Jean.

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