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Henry A. Kissinger (1923-2023)

Henry A. Kissinger, Honorary Trustee and past Board Chair of International House who died November 29, 2023, had a relationship with I-House that stretched back nearly five decades,  including participation in numerous programs and events over the years where he engaged with residents on important and timely topics.

In 1977, after stepping down from government service at the end of the Ford administration, Kissinger was elected Chairman of the I-House Board of Trustees, a position he held until 1984.

A longtime associate of the Rockefeller family, Kissinger first became connected to I-House in the 1970s, when he was honored at the 1974 Golden Jubilee celebration, held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Kissinger was US Secretary of State at the time of the event and was later given the award by I-House Honorary Trustee David Rockefeller and I-House’s then-president, Howard A. Cook, in Washington, DC. 

As Board Chair, Kissinger wrote letters of introduction for Cook to government officials and potential supporters around the world. His engagement was driven by his strong belief in the importance of the I-House mission: “International House is one of the few places on the globe where young people of virtually every nationality, race, and creed come together dedicated to live in harmony to learn how to deal with even the most difficult issues our world confronts.” Cook also noted that while Kissinger’s leadership was prestigious for the House, it was a disadvantage in parts of the world where he was a polarizing figure. 

After retiring as chairman, Kissinger was elected an Honorary Trustee in 1985, a position he held until his death. His involvement with the House continued as a guest speaker and as a panel participant during the 75th Anniversary and at various fundraisers, until his last appearance in 2018, when he was joined in conversation with I-House Trustee Fareed Zakaria. 

In 2010, Kissinger and fellow past I-House Chairman John C. Whitehead were honored at a black-tie dinner at the Rockefeller estate in Pocantico Hills, New York. At the event, Chairman Paul A. Volcker noted that, even 33 years after he stepped down as Secretary of State, Kissinger commanded “the attention of people around the world, on almost any subject, and enormous respect.” 

In a notice prepared for the December 3, 2023, edition of The New York Times, Board Chair Frank G. Wisner and President Sebastian Fries wrote, “The Board of Trustees, residents and staff of International House note with sadness the passing of our Honorary Trustee Henry A. Kissinger, past board chair (1977-84) and longtime supporter, who actively engaged with members of our community over more than four decades. Our sympathy is extended to his wife, Nancy, and members of his family.” 

Of Kissinger’s passing, Ambassador Wisner noted, “Having worked for the former secretary, I admit to a deep personal sense of loss. I recall with gratitude Dr. Kissinger’s service to our institution, his extraordinary contributions to our nation, and his lifelong devotion to public service.”