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John Edwin Fobes - Workers for Peace

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John Edwin Fobes

by George White - The Asheville Citizen-Times

- John Edwin Fobes, 86, of Asheville, died suddenly but quietly at his home Thursday, Jan. 20, 2005, after a long life working for multilateral cooperation and international understanding.

Born and raised in Chicago, he attended Parker Junior/Senior High School. There he received the Chicago Union League Club Award for Civic Achievement. Dr. Fobes graduated cum laude in international relations from Northwestern University in 1939. There he won the Kirk Oratorical Prize. He received his M.S. in international relations from Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University in 1940. He was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Humanities by Bucknell University in 1973.

He served in the U.S. Army Air Corps, European Theater, from 1942-1946, rising from private to major.

After the war, in 1945, he served on the Preparatory Commission of the United Nations in London. The next year in New York, he became secretary of an advisory group to the first secretary-general of the United Nations. As a U.S. civil servant in the Bureau of the Budget, 1946-1951, he helped administer the Marshall Plan and address issues arising from increased multilateral activity following World War II.

He and his family moved to Paris, France, in 1952, where he served for three years as attache to the U.S. Delegation to NATO and OEEC. Upon return to the United States, he was appointed director for the State Department's Office of International Administration.

In 1960, the family moved to New Delhi, India, where Dr. Fobes served as assistant director, then deputy director, of the U.S. Mission to India, the largest U.S. foreign-aid program at the time.

In 1964, he returned to Paris to work for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, as assistant director-general for administration. In 1971, he was appointed deputy director-general, the organization's chief operating officer, a post he held until his retirement in 1977.

During sabbatical leave in 1970, he was visiting scholar at Indiana and Harvard universities. After leaving UNESCO, he was a visiting scholar at Duke University and adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

In the ensuing years, Fobes remained active in organizations promoting multilateral cooperation and understanding: Club of Rome, 1978-2000 (member); U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, 1978-84 (chair, 1979-1981); founder and chair of Americans for the Universality of UNESCO, 1985-2005 (established to promote the return of the United States to UNESCO); president WNC Chapter, United Nations Association/USA.

Additionally, he co-founded the Association for the Promotion of Humor in International Affairs, which honored, among others, John Kenneth Galbraith, Art Buchwald and Piet Hiem with its annual "Noble" Prizes. Buchwald's prize was 2,000 pennies, to be picked up in a wheelbarrow at a bank.

Honors include UNESCO Silver Medal for Service, 1983 and Nehru Gold Medal in recognition of "profound commitment to the Organization and outstanding contribution to the achievement of its goals," 1992; elected fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science, 1992.

Fobes often recited Francis Thompson's verse, "All things by immortal power, near or far, hiddenly, to each other linked are, that thou canst not stir a flower without troubling of a star."

Survivors include his citizen-activist wife of 64 years, Hazel Weaver Fobes; daughter, Patricia Sanson and her husband, John Sanson, of Maryville, Tenn.; son, Jeff Fobes (publisher, Mountain Xpress) and his wife, Susan Hutchinson, of Weaverville; three granddaughters, Michelle Vincent, Kelly Forster, Renée Williams and five great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 13, at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church at 789 Merrimon Ave., followed by a reception.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorials be made either to:
The Fobes Memorial Fund of Americans for UNESCO
1400 K St. NW
Washington, DC 20006
The WNC Chapter UNA/USA
P.O. Box 724
Hendersonville, NC 28739
Friends and associates can e-mail comments in memoriam to

A Washington, D.C., memorial service will also be held at a date to be announced by Americans for UNESCO.

Published: 2005-01-28

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