March 3, 2016, Cairo – The Board of Trustees of the American University in Cairo (AUC) announced today the appointment of Francis J. Ricciardone as the University’s next president. A distinguished career diplomat and former ambassador, Ricciardone currently serves as vice president and director of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the US-based Atlantic Council. Ricciardone served as US ambassador to Egypt from 2005 to 2008. He assumes office as AUC’s 12th president on July 1, 2016.In making the announcement, Richard A. Bartlett, chair of AUC’s Board of Trustees, noted the value of Ricciardone’s many years of distinguished service in the Middle East. “Frank’s diplomatic career gives him a deep and nuanced understanding of Egypt and the region — its history, its culture and its ambitions. He also knows the transformative impact that an American liberal arts education can have on people and societies around the world. AUC is Egypt’s global university, and Frank’s international perspective will strengthen the University’s role as a link between Egypt, the region and the world.” Bartlett also stressed Ricciardone’s personal qualities. “He has an impeccable reputation as a leader with unquestioned integrity, respect for the views of others and an ability to forge consensus.”
Prior to joining the Atlantic Council, Ricciardone served as the US ambassador to Turkey from 2011 to 2014, chargé d’ affaires and deputy ambassador to Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010 and the US ambassador to Egypt from 2005 to 2008. He also served as US ambassador to the Philippines and Palau from 2002 to 2005. He graduated from Dartmouth College and was a Fulbright Scholar in Italy and a guest scholar at the US Institute of Peace. He speaks and reads Arabic, Italian, Turkish and French, as well as rudimentary Farsi.
“I experienced the transformative impact of international education first as a Dartmouth undergraduate in Italy and France, and later as a Fulbright scholar in Italy,” said Ricciardone. “I started my professional life as a teacher in Italy and Iran, believing that education is the most inspiring and worthy human endeavor. I believe in the power and goodness of educational and scientific engagement as a shared aspiration with the ability to bridge economic, cultural and social divides.”
Ricciardone emerged as the unanimous choice presented to the Board of Trustees by a 13-member Presidential Search Committee, composed of 10 trustees and three AUC faculty representatives. The international search for AUC’s president began in July 2015 and included surveys with faculty, students, staff and alumni, campus forums and meetings with finalists to select the next president.
Ricciardone’s appointment comes at an exciting time for AUC, explained Bartlett, as the University prepares for its 100th anniversary in 2019. “The nature of learning and academic institutions is evolving, but education has never been as important as it is today. In this environment, AUC is well positioned to enhance its role in the social, political and cultural life of Egypt and the region. Frank is well suited to lead us in this mission.”
Commenting on his selection, Ricciardone said, “I am deeply honored to have the opportunity to build on the remarkable legacy of AUC — Egypt’s global university and a leading institution in the Middle East known for its excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, and scholarly research and partnerships with academic and research institutions around the world. It is a privilege to join the AUC community and to lead this extraordinary institution as it approaches its centennial.”
Ricciardone was born in Boston and graduated from Malden Catholic High School. Upon graduation summa cum laude from Dartmouth College in 1973, he received a Fulbright Scholarship for teaching and studying in Italy. He went to Iran as a teacher in 1976, traveling widely in Southwest Asia, Europe and the Middle East until he entered the United States Foreign Service in 1978.
His wife, Dr. Marie Dunn Ricciardone, directs the Middle East collaboration programs of the Center for Global Health at the U.S. National Cancer Institute.