Ilchman‐Richardson Award

The Ilchman‐Richardson Award, instituted in 2007, recognizes a domestic employee of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), of the U.S. State Department, who has made significant contributions in the management of American cultural diplomacy, while leading and mentoring others. The award is named in appreciation of two former ECA Assistant Secretaries. After her tenure at ECA, Alice Ilchman, formerly Dean of Wellesley College, became the Associate Director of USICA and USIA (1979‐81) and then the President of Sarah Lawrence College, before becoming chair of the board of the Rockefeller Foundation; until her death in 2006, she directed the Jeanette Watson Fellowships. John Richardson, after years in corporate law, investment banking and Radio Free Europe, became Assistant Secretary for State/ECA (1968‐77); he then headed Youth For Understanding and chaired the boards of the U.S. Endowment for Democracy and the U.S. Institute of Peace.

The 2020 Ilchman-Richardson Award went to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Director of Academic Exchange Programs, Mary Kirk. Mary and her team have extended the breadth of the Fulbright Program’s outreach and selection processes and reinforced their connection to foreign policy priorities, while ensuring the health, safety and productivity of the exchange experience for all Fulbrighters. Under her leadership, her team built alumni and partner networks and reinvigorated the Fulbright US scholar program, while strengthening financial accountability and management practices and expanding training and resource materials for ECA staff, Posts and Fulbright commissions. She is an undisputed master of meeting the daunting complexities and competing demands involved in the budgetary intricacies of extensive world travel for negotiations, mentoring and oversight.  When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Mary led her staff to quickly pivot to address the many unique issues that arose within exchange policies and procedures in a virtual environment. She embodies the Roth/Ilchman/Richardson legacy through her tireless dedication and creative, insightful approaches as a cultural diplomacy leader and manager.

An Honorable Mention was also awarded to ECA’s Senior Program Manager for Diversity and Inclusion, David Levin.  During his 36 years with ECA, he has built Diversity and Inclusion into ECA’s ethos instilling his fervent belief that international exchange and its life-changing benefits should be available to everyone and that exchanges are stronger and more impactful when they truly represent the diversity of American society and of societies abroad. It was David who connected the Fulbright Teacher Exchange program and Youth Exchanges in the 1980s, pushing ECA to expand its focus to inner-cities and rural areas. And way back in 1994, David moved to increase exchange opportunities for persons with disabilities by designing a grant competition that became the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange. Today, American host families from small communities welcome diverse participants from countries around the world and American students from diverse places around the United States venture abroad. The diversification of ECA programs didn’t just happen overnight—it is due to David Levin’s efforts.

For a complete list of recipients of this award, please consult Ilchman-Richardson Award Recipients.