The Weatherhead Center for International Affairs mourns the loss of Robert Richardson Bowie, the Center’s founding director, who passed away on Saturday, November 2, 2013, at the age of 104.
Robert Bowie was born on August 24, 1909, and was a highly respected American diplomat and scholar. After graduating from Princeton University in 1931, Bowie went on to attend Harvard University, receiving his law degree in 1934. He served in the US Army from 1942 to 1946 as a commissioned officer with the Pentagon and in occupied Germany from 1945 until 1946, after which he returned to Harvard to teach.
As the legal advisor to John J. McCloy, US high commissioner to Germany, Bowie authored some of the most crucial clauses of the agreement between the Allies and West Germany. In 2009, Bowie received the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. At the award ceremony, Ambassador Scharioth stressed the importance of Robert Bowie’s work toward a united Europe based on Franco-German reconciliation.
From 1953 to 1957, Robert Bowie continued to support these causes as head of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, as a member of the Eisenhower administration. In 1957, as the newly appointed founding director of the Center for International Affairs, Bowie made the political, strategic, and economic aspects of US relations with Europe a central focus of Harvard’s new research center.
Along with these great accomplishments, Bowie was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations; the Trilateral Commission; the American Law Institute; the American Academy of Diplomacy; and served as CIA chief national intelligence officer from 1977 to 1979.
Bowie founded the Center with the intention to address, “…the pressing need for widened knowledge and understanding: for more awareness of the nature and complexity of foreign affairs; for more informed and imaginative thinking.” Former Center Director and Chairman of the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, Jorge I. Domínguez, reflected “Bowie’s belief in, and support for, research and its application to international affairs was strong and enduring. His belief in, and support for, the Center that he founded was thoughtful, ever-loyal, all-abiding, and generous.” In his passing, we will continue to strive toward his vision and always keep his determination, wisdom, and deeply inquisitive nature in our hearts and our minds.
The Center plans a memorial gathering in his honor in the spring of 2014.
Robert R. Bowie in April 1958, soon after he was named as the Center Founding Director. Photo credit: Harvard University Archives, call # UAV 605, Professor in Action Series, F2440 frame 8.