Remembering Fletcher Dean Emeritus Stephen Bosworth

Secretary of State John Kerry says the former ambassador practiced “a unique brand of diplomacy”

Stephen Bosworth

Stephen W. Bosworth, dean emeritus of the Fletcher School, died of pancreatic cancer at his home in Boston on Jan. 4. He was 76.

Bosworth, who served as dean from 2001 to 2013, increased the size of the Fletcher faculty and student body while securing the financial stability of the school during a time of economic uncertainty. He also oversaw the creation of new degree programs that significantly expanded the scope of the school’s teaching, research and global outreach.

“Dean Bosworth was an exemplar of all we truly value here at Tufts,” said Tufts President Anthony P. Monaco in a message to the university community. “As an academic leader and a former U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Korea, he brought moral courage, personal integrity and a passion for scholarship, research and teaching to bear on many of the thorniest problems of our time,” Monaco wrote. “His was a life lived as an active citizen, and in recognition of that, Tufts presented him with the Dr. Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award in 2011.”

Raised on a farm in Michigan, Bosworth, whose early education occurred in a one-room schoolhouse, became one of the world’s foremost experts on North Korean human rights and nuclear issues. While at Tufts, he also served for three years as the Obama administration’s Special Representative for North Korea Policy.

As ambassador to the Republic of Korea from 1997 to 2001, he strenuously advocated for engagement with North Korea. As head of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization from 1995 to 1997, Bosworth led the negotiations to implement the ill-fated 1994 agreement with North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program in exchange for light-water reactors.

“He brought that practitioner’s ethos to Fletcher, and was someone who every one of our students and faculty looked up to, not only as an intellectual leader, but as a person of deep impact on the world,” said James Stavridis, F83, F84, who succeeded Bosworth as dean of the Fletcher School.

Upon learning of Bosworth’s death, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry offered its condolences and expressed appreciation for his work to strengthen the alliance between that country and the United States.

A career diplomat who served three presidents—Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton—Bosworth also was ambassador to Tunisia and to the Philippines, where he played a key role in the historic negotiations that led to the peaceful transition from the regime of longtime dictator Ferdinand Marcos to the democratically elected administration of Corazon Aquino.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who, as a young senator, worked with Bosworth on the Philippine negotiations in the mid-1980s, said in a statement that Bosworth’s “unique brand of diplomacy blended the gravitas of a statesman and the timing of a comedian. He was an unfailingly genuine and nice person, a straightforward man who was quick with a kind comment or a self-deprecating joke.”

Bosworth received the American Academy of Diplomacy’s Diplomat of the Year Award in 1987.

At an international school like Fletcher, Bosworth was acutely aware that the perspectives of many people from many places would only strengthen the institution. And so he established regional advisory groups around the globe that have helped to more fully engage Fletcher’s extensive network of alumni and friends. “Most of all,” Monaco said, “he had an enduring impact on the education of professionals and scholars who are now out in the world, working to make it a better place.”

At the time of his death, Bosworth was a senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He also was chair of the Korean Institute at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins and in 2014 served as the Payne Lecturer at the Freeman Spogli Institute at Stanford University.

He is survived by his wife, Christine, four children, 10 grandchildren and two brothers. A celebration of Bosworth’s life will take place on Saturday, Feb. 20, at 2 p.m. at Harvard University’s Memorial Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, followed by a reception at Loeb House, 17 Quincy St.

Instead of flowers, the family encourages donations to the Bosworth Scholars, a scholarship program the Fletcher School established to honor the dean and his 12-year tenure. Donations may be made online at; click “Other” under “Select an Area,” and type in Bosworth Scholars. Gifts may also be mailed to senior director of development and alumni relations Kathleen C. Ryan, Fletcher School, 160 Packard Ave., Medford, MA 02155. For more information, email or call 617-627-2721.

Back to Top