HKS Fund Outstanding Alumni Award
Allan Wendt flew straight from Boston to Saigon after his time at the Kennedy School. “I didn’t even go through Washington,” he recalls. It was the height of the Vietnam War, and Wendt, a Foreign Service Officer, had spent a year studying. It was time to get back in the game.
Rice production in Vietnam had dropped, and after an intense year focusing on economics and statistics, Wendt went to work trying to solve the country’s rice problem: Production was being disrupted by the war, and the Vietnamese were reluctantly eating American-grown rice brought in under the PL-480 program.
“I joined the Foreign Service for the same reasons most people do: a desire to serve the country and an interest in foreign affairs,” Wendt says. It was the beginning of a career at the intersection of economics and international relations that also took Wendt to Germany, Belgium, and Egypt and positions at Foggy Bottom overseeing energy issues and technology and export controls at the end of the Cold War. He became the first U.S. ambassador to Slovenia following that country’s split from what was then Yugoslavia.
“For me it was a very good fit. It was payback time.”
Wendt has also generously served the Kennedy School. He started giving to the school in the mid-1980s, when he felt he could begin making modest contributions, and has given every year for the past 33 years to the school’s HKS Fund. His support has benefited more than 15,000 students.
Honoring Wendt at Reunion Weekend, HKS Fund Executive Council Co-Chair Sean Rush MC/MPA 2007 pointed to the value of long-term support: “Allan Wendt embodies the power of alumni participation and philanthropy, and, through his steadfast annual support over the years, has shown that gifts of all amounts can, over time, have a tremendous impact on students, faculty, and alumni.”
“I felt a certain loyalty to the educational institutions I’ve attended,” Wendt says. “The time I spent at Harvard fully justified my contributions. For me it was a very good fit. It was payback time.”