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Mr. John A. Buche
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Conferral speech for the Distinguished Alumnus Award given at the 2014 Saint Meinrad Alumni Reunion

 Presented July 29, 2014 

Delivered by Fr. Gavin Barnes, OSB


What a traveled history you’ve had, John Allen Buche!

And it all started here at Saint Meinrad in 1949, where you finished high school and three semesters of college in the minor seminary.

Then, in 1955, you enrolled at Purdue University and graduated with highest distinction in 1957 with a Bachelor of Science degree.  After serving in the military, stationed in Germany, you stayed there for a semester to study at Tuebingen University.

Prior to graduating from college, you met with a recruiter from the State Department’s Foreign Service and decided to take the entry exam and passed both the oral and written components.  In 1959, you were commissioned as an officer in the United States Foreign Service.  Your career with the Department of State spanned nearly 45 years and took you to Canada, Ethiopia, Malawi, Niger, Germany, Switzerland, Zambia, Austria, Philippines and back to Saint Meinrad as an adjunct professor between Foreign Service stints. 

In Ethiopia, you served as the Embassy’s Amharic-language officer and reported on domestic political developments.  You also served as interpreter for the 1967 State Visit of Emperor Haile Selassie to Washington.  You then served at the Embassy in Malawi as Deputy Chief of Mission and Peace Corps Director.  In Niger, you directed the U.S. Government’s relief operations during the Sahelian region’s severe drought, which resulted in widespread hunger and a heavy death toll.  Your work there was commended by the State Department for your leadership throughout the disaster.

Your next assignment was in Bonn, Germany, where you were the Supervisory Consul General for eight consular offices in the country.  In Switzerland, you worked as a liaison to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Committee of the Red Cross.  After that, you returned to Africa as Deputy Chief of Mission at the American Embassy in Lusaka, Zambia.

In 1984, you became the head of the State Department Office for Refugee Affairs for Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East.  You were then promoted to the Senior Foreign Service and assigned to lead the Department’s Office of United Nations Technical Agencies, including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the World Health Organization, the International Labor Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization.  Following this assignment, John, you received the Department of State’s Superior Honor Award for your leadership and guidance through several major crises.

Your last assignment before your first retirement took you to Vienna, Austria.  There your principal task was to work with the UN Palestine Relief Agency and the IAEA.  You were part of the team that negotiated and monitored the IAEA’s discovery and dismantling of Iraq’s covert nuclear program, following the country’s expulsion from Kuwait by Operation Desert Storm.

In 1992, you retired … for the first time.  In September 1993, you returned to the Hill and taught as an adjunct professor at Saint Meinrad for two years – teaching courses in the College on the history of American diplomacy and on the United Nations.

The Department of State, in 1996, requested that you come out of retirement to head a special mission in the Philippines to process Vietnamese refugees for resettlement in the United States.  After this mission, you served as an operations officer in the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration to provide humanitarian aid to refugees and displaced persons from the ethnic wars in West Africa, Congo, Rwanda, and the Balkans.  Your responsibilities also included liaison work with the International Red Cross on human rights issues involving detainees.  You were chosen to head a task force in the State Department’s Operations Center that was involved in extricating over 7,000 endangered Kurds from Northern Iraq to the United States.

In 2008, you retired once again from the State Department, and now live in Washington DC with your wife, Anike.

Through this vast and journeyed course, John, you took your faith and your Saint Meinrad foundation to provide spiritual, intellectual, and material support to so many of our brothers and sisters around the world.  Much of your State Department career was spent in the humanitarian field, where you sought to alleviate the suffering of victims of wars, ethnic conflicts, and famines.  You sought Christ in all those you encountered.  In recognition of your career achievements, especially your humanitarian work, we wish to bestow on you the Distinguished Alumnus Award.




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