Trustee Emeritus Bill Richardson, A70, F71, H97, Dies

The former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations led a distinguished public service career marked by important international negotiations

Trustee emeritus William “Bill” Richardson, A70, F71, H97, a key figure in many difficult negotiations of crises worldwide and an ardent ambassador for Tufts, died on September 1. He was 75. 

Richardson had a distinguished career in public service that spanned more than 50 years. In 1982, Richardson was elected to the first of eight terms in the U.S. Congress, representing northern New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District. While a congressman, he served as a special U.S. envoy on many sensitive international missions. He won the release of hostages, American servicemembers, and prisoners in North Korea, Iraq, and Cuba and negotiated the peaceful transfer of power in the former Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo).  

In 1997, Richardson became United States Ambassador to the United Nations, where he addressed many difficult international negotiating challenges and crises all over the world.  

In 1998, he was unanimously confirmed as U.S. Secretary of Energy, and became a champion of environmental responsibility, clean and renewable technologies, and reducing dependence on foreign resources. He was elected governor of New Mexico in 2002 and was reelected to a second term in 2006. 

In recognition of his work as a diplomat and Special Envoy, Richardson ultimately received four Nobel Peace Prize nominations. 

After completing his undergraduate work at Tufts in 1970, Richardson pursued graduate studies at The Fletcher School, earning a master’s degree in 1971. He was subsequently awarded an honorary doctorate by the university in 1997. 

“Bill Richardson was a dedicated and loyal public servant,” said Tufts University President Sunil Kumar. “Tufts was privileged to be associated with him and his remarkable life as a global statesman. I join everyone at Tufts in expressing my deepest condolences to his wife, Barbara, and his entire family. May he rest in peace.” 

Richardson became a member of the Tufts Board of Trustees in 2003 and was awarded trustee emeritus status upon stepping down in 2008. Chairman of the Board of Trustees Peter R. Dolan, A78, A08P, characterized Richardson’s dedication to his alma mater as that of an engaged and supportive trustee emeritus. “Wherever in the world his public service took him, he spoke with pride and gratitude about the institution that helped to shape him,” said Dolan. 

Richardson served as a member of the Boards of Advisors of both Tisch College and The Fletcher School. Kelly Sims Gallagher, dean ad interim of the Fletcher School, noted that “Ambassador Richardson was a diplomat of rare skill and a champion of the oppressed. He will be missed.”  

A strong advocate for access in education, he established the William B. Richardson Scholarship Fund to enable more students the opportunity of a Tufts education. 

In addition to his volunteer service at Tufts, Richardson served as a special envoy to the Organization of American States and as a special fellow on Latin America at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. Richardson started two foundations: the Richardson Center for Global Engagement, focusing on conflict resolution and prisoner release, and, along with actor and conservationist Robert Redford, the Foundation to Preserve New Mexico Wildlife. He also sat on several nonprofit boards, including the World Resources Institute, and Refugees International. 

Richardson is survived by his wife of 51 years, Barbara. 

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