Asia Society Mourns the Loss of Richard Holbrooke

Former Society Chairman, Leading Diplomat, Dead at 69

Ambassador Richard Holbrooke at the State Department in Washington, DC, on Aug. 9, 2010. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, Dec 13, 2010 - Asia Society is mourning the loss of its former Chairman and one of America's most distinguished diplomats, Richard C. Holbrooke, who died in Washington DC today. He was 69.

Ambassador Holbrooke passed away at George Washington University Hospital after a marathon series of operations for a torn aorta, the large artery that takes blood from the heart.

Asia Society President Vishakha Desai paid tribute to his legacy and expressed her condolences to his wife, Kati, and their children. 

"All of us at Asia Society are deeply saddened to hear of Ambassador Holbrooke's death," Dr. Desai said.

"We had been looking forward to welcoming him this Friday to discuss the Obama's Administration's Afghanistan strategy. It is hard to imagine the world of international relations without the towering intellect of Richard Holbrooke.

"At Asia Society, his memory and tremendous contribution will live on in the form of the Holbrooke Fellowship, which is given to exceptional young diplomats. It will remind us of his keen intelligence and dedication to the world of diplomacy.

Ambassador Holbrooke joined Asia Society in 2002 and left the Chair when President Barack Obama appointed him US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2009.

Dr. Desai said the years under his stewardship saw major changes within the institution. She said he was "always pushing all of us to do the best we could, and making the institution reach new heights.

"It was an honor to work with him. During his tenure as Chair, Asia Society expanded dramatically, from establishing two new centers in Mumbai and Seoul to developing a brand new Center on US-China Relations, founded by the long-time Asia Society trustee Arthur Ross," Dr. Desai said.

"Throughout his tenure, Ambassador Hobrooke remained a champion for showcasing diverse voices from Asia, focusing on journalists, artists, and civil society leaders in addition to key government leaders. He encouraged the staff of the Society to look carefully at issues around Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, long before they became so ingrained in our psyche."

News reports said Ambassador Holbrooke collapsed during a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the State Department on Friday.

He underwent a marathon operation that lasted 20 hours and underwent further surgery on Sunday.

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Related Links

Richard Holbrooke on Flooding in Pakistan (Aug. 2010)
Asia Society Interview with Richard Holbrooke (Oct. 2006)
Press Release: Richard Holbrooke Steps Down as Asia Society Chairman (Jan. 2009) 

Additional Coverage

National Public Radio profile of Richard Holbrooke -, Dec. 14, 2010
George Packer's 2009 New Yorker profile -, Sept 28, 2009
Sharing Stories of a Man Who Loved Big Challenges - The New York Times, Dec 17, 2010