William R. Polk is the senior director of the
W. P. Carey Foundation. A graduate of Harvard University
(B. A. Magna Cum Laude and Ph.D.) and Oxford University
A. and M. A.), he also studied at the Universidad Nacional
de Mexico, the Universidad Nacional de Chile, the University
of Baghdad and the American University of Cairo.
He taught at Harvard University from 1955 to
1961 when President Kennedy appointed him a Member of the
Policy Planning Council of the United States Department of
On the Policy Planning Council, he was responsible
for planning American policy over much of Africa and Asia
and for a number of specialized issues such as development,
refugee problems and cultural exchange. Dr. Polk was also
the head of various interdepartmental Task Forces on America
foreign policy and was a participant in the “crisis
management committee” during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
During this period, he was asked to become Deputy Commissioner-General
In 1965, Dr. Polk resigned from government service to become Professor
of History at the University of Chicago. There he also established the
Center for Middle Eastern Studies and was a founding director of the
Middle Eastern Studies Association. In 1967, he also became President
of the Adlai Stevenson Institute of International Affairs which, among
other things, hosted the 20th Pugwash Conference on nuclear weapons problems,
helped to organize the “Table Ronde” meeting that laid the
groundwork for the European Union and did much of the planning for the
United Nations Environmental Program.
He was called back to the White House briefly
during the 1967 Middle Eastern War to write a draft peace
treaty and to act as an advisor to McGeorge Bundy, the former
head of the National Security Council, who was the president’s
personal representative during that crisis.
Born in Fort Worth, he grew up there and on a ranch in west Texas. He
attended public school in Fort Worth and the New Mexico Military Institute
where he was in cavalry training during World War II. After a period
studying in Latin America, he worked on a newspaper in Rome before entering
Dr. Polk has traveled extensively throughout Latin America, Africa, Asia
and Europe and speaks several of the languages of those areas.
He is the Vice Chairman of the W.P. Carey Foundation.
He is married to Baroness Elisabeth von Oppenheimer and now spends most
of his time writing in the south of France.