One year after the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, took the lives of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, the late diplomat’s family and friends are resolved to see his work continue in future generations of students from his alma mater, the University of California, Berkeley.
Today, UC Berkeley announced a gift from the ambassador’s family and friends that establishes an endowed fund at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies to support research and travel to the Middle East and North Africa for students who demonstrate a high level of distinction and are pursuing a degree in or related to Middle Eastern studies.
“As UC Berkeley graduates, and on behalf of our daughter, Anne, and our son, Tom, we are pleased to honor Chris’s life and career in working to create understanding and cooperation between the people of the United States and those of the Middle East and North Africa,” said his parents — Jan Stevens and Mary (Stevens) Commanday, both UC Berkeley alumni — in a statement. “Establishing this fund in the renowned Center for Middle Eastern Studies will encourage graduates of this department to follow Chris’s lead in learning about and undertaking work in this increasingly important center of the world’s attention.”
Stevens received a bachelor’s degree in history from UC Berkeley in 1982. He immediately joined the Peace Corps, which took him to Morocco. This experience sparked an abiding passion for the Middle East, leading eventually to his successful career in the U.S. Foreign Service and postings in several Middle Eastern countries.
“This wonderful gift from the family and friends of Ambassador Chris Stevens honors an extraordinary alumnus who embodied Berkeley’s commitment to public service,” said UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks. “Ambassador Stevens dedicated his life to promoting peace and understanding of the Middle East. There could be no better way to honor his legacy than enabling future generations of students to follow in his footsteps.”
“The Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens Memorial Fund for Middle Eastern Studies is a major contribution to undergraduate and graduate students who study the Middle East and North Africa on this campus,” said Nezar AlSayyad, chair of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. “It serves not only as a memory of a great diplomat but also as an incentive for a new generation to be inspired by his example.”
The gift from family and friends was made possible through a distribution from the J. Christopher Stevens Fund, a project of New Venture Fund based in Washington, D.C.
Efforts are also afoot by Mary (Stevens) Commanday’s graduating class of 1958 as part of its 55th reunion this year to support a previously established memorial fund for Stevens. That fund provides for the J. Christopher Stevens Public Service Scholars, whose participants take part in the Cal in the Capital Program. Students selected for the program are pursuing careers in public service with the U.S. government or non-governmental organizations with a focus on the Middle East.