Donald McHenry is a diplomat, scholar, corporate governor and educator who served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (UN). Because the hospitals of his home town, East St. Louis, Illinois, where he would grow up, were segregated, McHenry was born in St. Louis, Missouri on October 13, 1936. After his parents divorced he and his two siblings were raised by their mother.
McHenry received his bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University in 1957, and his master’s degree from Southern Illinois University in 1959. He found his niche in diplomacy and international affairs between 1963 and 1971, while working at the U.S. Department of State in its Office of Dependent Area Affairs. While there, he received its Superior Honor Award in 1966.
From 1971 to 1973 McHenry served as a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and scholar at the Brookings Institution, and in 1973 he worked on humanitarian policy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He joined President-elect Jimmy Carter’s Presidential transition team in 1976, and in 1977 President Carter sent him to the UN where he served for two years as Deputy Representative to the UN Security Council. He was then appointed as U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN with rank of Ambassador, a position he held as part of the President’s Cabinet from 1979 to 1981.
Ambassador McHenry has served on numerous corporate boards, commencing in 1981 when he became the first African American to be appointed to the board of the Coca-Cola Company. As the inaugural chair of Coca-Cola’s Public Issues and Diversity Review Committee, McHenry also led corporate efforts to improve internal opportunities.
Because of Ambassador McHenry’s leadership and diplomatic experience, President Bill Clinton appointed him as Special Envoy to Nigeria from 1994 to 1996, where he led efforts to mediate unrest in that country. In 1998 UN Secretary General Kofi Annan tapped Ambassador McHenry to join a delegation to travel to Algeria to gather information and provide guidance on the unrest and violence that was erupting in that country.
Today Ambassador McHenry continues his diplomatic efforts as Chair of the Ford Foundation International Fellows Program, a member of the Global Leadership Forum, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and as an Advisory Board Member for the Partnership for a Secure America. He also shares is expertise as an educator, having taught at Southern Illinois University, Howard University, Mount Holyoke College and, most recently, Georgetown University.
Ambassador McHenry, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, has two daughters and a son with his former wife.