Honoring Asia Foundation Trustee Emeritus Theodore L. Eliot, Jr.
San Francisco, August 12, 2019 — Asia Foundation Trustee Emeritus Theodore L. Eliot, Jr. passed away on August 8 at the age of 91. Theodore Lyman Eliot Jr. was born Jan. 24, 1928, part of the prominent Boston Eliot family, which included several college presidents and one Nobel Prize winner.
He graduated from Harvard University in 1948 and married Pat Peters in 1951, in Sri Lanka, where Eliot was working as a member of the Foreign Service. He received a master’s degree from Harvard’s Graduate School of Public Administration in 1956.
Eliot first joined the Board of Trustees of The Asia Foundation in 1990, after earlier directing the Foundation’s Center for Asian-Pacific Affairs. Foundation President David D. Arnold announced Eliot’s passing to staff and trustees: “We are deeply saddened by the death of Ted Eliot Jr., as a colleague, friend, advisor and mentor. The Asia Foundation was privileged to have Ted as both a trustee and on staff. He deeply enriched every issue he worked on, including his strong support of the Foundation’s work in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. He will be deeply missed by all.”
As a Foreign Service Officer, in addition to serving in Sri Lanka, Eliot served in Germany, the Soviet Union, Iran, and in 1973-1978, as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. His Washington assignments included executive secretary (1969-1973) and inspector general (1978) at the Department of State. In 1978 he retired from the Foreign Service after 30 years to become dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. In 1985-1987, he was director of The Asia Foundation’s Center for Asian-Pacific Affairs. Ambassador Eliot was a director of a number of corporations, including the Raytheon Company, and a board member of many non-profits in the international and environmental arenas. He served on The Asia Foundation’s board from 1990-2002, including as vice chairman and chairman of the Executive Committee.
He and his wife Pat treasured their time living in Afghanistan, when Eliot was U.S. Ambassador, and he conveyed that while he had served during a tense period during the Ford and Carter administrations, it was prior to the Soviet invasion, and that the political landscape had changed dramatically since then, although he always remained hopeful. In a recent piece in The Asia Foundation’s blog, InAsia, Eliot spoke of Afghanistan and its current challenges, in a provocative piece he wrote with Ambassador Karl Inderfurth, called: In Afghanistan, Are the Taliban Really Open to Making Peace? He quoted findings from The Asia Foundation’s annual Survey of the Afghan People, of which he was an ardent supporter because it contained the unvarnished opinions of Afghan citizens, against a heated political backdrop: “Sixty-nine percent of Afghans believe that incentives—in the form of government assistance, jobs, and housing—should be provided to antigovernment elements as part of a reconciliation process. That is a magnanimous response from those who have borne the brunt of the 17-year civil conflict. The question now is whether the Taliban are actually open to making peace. Most indicators still suggest not. But should they be, a door is open. As the recently departed U.S. military commander, General John Nicholson, Jr., said in his farewell remarks: ‘It is time for this war in Afghanistan to end.'”
Eliot and his late wife Pat moved to Sonoma in 1988 and spent their golden years in the Sonoma Valley working to protect the natural world, expand local trails and protect open space. Pat Eliot died in 2016 at age 87. The Eliots were ardent birders and traveled widely to seek out specific species. They had traveled to Mongolia after one Asia Foundation board meeting in search of the one crane they had never seen on their numerous birdwatching trips. At last count, Eliot had recorded nearly 4,000 different species of birds from locations around the world.
During their three decades in Sonoma, the Eliots left their mark on the Valley and its natural character. Pat, a lifelong environmentalist, served as a board member of Sonoma LandPaths and Ted served on the Citizens Advisory Committee of the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, the Point Reyes Bird Observatory, the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and the Community Foundation Sonoma County.
Ted is survived by his four children, including his son Ted Eliot III, who is a current Trustee of The Asia Foundation and Former President of Connell Brothers Division, Wilbur-Ellis Company. He is also survived by nine grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
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