Dr. William R. Polk
William R. Polk is the senior director of the W. P. Carey Foundation. A graduate of Harvard University (B. A. Magna Cum Laude and Ph.D.) and Oxford University (B. A. and M. A.), he also studied at the Universidad Nacional de Mexico, the Universidad Nacional de Chile, the University of Baghdad and the American University of Cairo.
He taught at Harvard University from 1955 to 1961 when President Kennedy appointed him a Member of the Policy Planning Council of the United States Department of State.
On the Policy Planning Council, he was responsible for planning American policy over much of Africa and Asia and for a number of specialized issues such as development, refugee problems and cultural exchange. Dr. Polk was also the head of various interdepartmental Task Forces on America foreign policy and was a participant in the “crisis management committee” during the Cuban Missile Crisis. During this period, he was asked to become Deputy Commissioner-General of UNRWA.
In 1965, Dr. Polk resigned from government service to become Professor of History at the University of Chicago. There he also established the Center for Middle Eastern Studies and was a founding director of the Middle Eastern Studies Association. In 1967, he also became President of the Adlai Stevenson Institute of International Affairs which, among other things, hosted the 20th Pugwash Conference on nuclear weapons problems, helped to organize the “Table Ronde” meeting that laid the groundwork for the European Union and did much of the planning for the United Nations Environmental Program.
He was called back to the White House briefly during the 1967 Middle Eastern War to write a draft peace treaty and to act as an advisor to McGeorge Bundy, the former head of the National Security Council, who was the president’s personal representative during that crisis.
Born in Fort Worth, he grew up there and on a ranch in west Texas. He attended public school in Fort Worth and the New Mexico Military Institute where he was in cavalry training during World War II. After a period studying in Latin America, he worked on a newspaper in Rome before entering college.
Dr. Polk has traveled extensively throughout Latin America, Africa, Asia and Europe and speaks several of the languages of those areas.
He is the Vice Chairman of the W.P. Carey Foundation.
He is married to Baroness Elisabeth von Oppenheimer and now spends most of his time writing in the south of France.