Refugees International is saddened by the death of Ambassador Princeton Lyman. The United States – and the world – has lost someone who dedicated his life to peace, diplomacy, and to helping vulnerable communities around the world.
Ambassador Lyman began his government career leading emergency relief and development projects in Ethiopia as the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Country Director there in 1976. He subsequently served as Ambassador to Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, and then as Ambassador to South Africa as the country was transitioning out of apartheid. He also led the State Department’s Bureau of Refugee Programs for three years under George H. W. Bush. In 2011, President Barack Obama called Ambassador Lyman out of retirement to serve as the U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan just as South Sudan gained independence.
While he held a number of senior-level positions, Ambassador Lyman made himself available to countless students and young professionals to provide advice and mentorship. RI Senior Advocate, Mark Yarnell, remembers him fondly as a professor of U.S.-Africa policy at Georgetown University.
“I felt lucky to learn from someone with so much experience and knowledge,” said Yarnell. “But what made his class so memorable was that his passion for African affairs was so genuine and palpable. It was infectious and had a major influence on my career path going forward.”
RI Senior Advocate Daniel Sullivan had the opportunity to engage with Ambassador Lyman when he was serving as an expert group member of the Genocide Prevention Task Force.
“Ambassador Lyman was a diplomat and scholar who clearly cared about the human impact of the work he did,” said Sullivan. “He was always thought provoking and compassionate in tackling some of the most difficult issues of our times.”
RI President Eric Schwartz, who worked with Ambassador Lyman at the Department of State, said:
“Princeton proved Leo Durocher wrong – nice guys do not need to finish last. Princeton was a wonderful colleague; kind, thoughtful, and approachable. He was a highly effective advocate, always pushing for smart and compassionate policies that advanced U.S. values and interests. The world, and our country, need more men and women of his integrity and character."