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Thunderbird alumnus to be sworn in as U.S. ambassador

Thunderbird School of Global Management alumnus Philip T. Reeker, who graduated from the school in 1991, will be sworn in today as the U.S. ambassador to Macedonia in Washington.

Prior to his ambassadorship, Reeker served as counselor for public affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. Prior to that, he was deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Hungary. He also has served as the deputy spokesman at the U.S. State Department, and earlier in his career was a public affairs officer in Skopje, Macedonia.

“I am honored to be returning to Macedonia,” the ambassador said during a recent visit to Thunderbird. “As a career Foreign Service Officer, it is an honor to be given this opportunity by the President and the Secretary of State,..”

He said one of his priorities will be highlighting Macedonia’s business and human resource potential for international investment opportunities, particularly from the United States, in order to bring stability to this historically unstable part of the world.

“The well-educated labor force available at low cost in this geographically strategic location should be of interest to U.S. investors,” Reeker said. “It is also a beautiful country.”

Reeker said he credits Thunderbird for his jump into a long-lasting foreign service career. When he came to Thunderbird from Yale University, his undergraduate alma mater, he was pursuing a career in international finance or banking with his sights set on Europe at the end of the Cold War. It was a posting in Thunderbird’s career management center to take the Foreign Service exam that initially piqued his interest.

“I took the exam and passed, and all of the sudden it all became very real,” he said. “It looked to be a very interesting way to start an international career that I had not considered. Even then, I only intended to do a tour or two. Now, 16 years later, I’m still with it.”

He said his Thunderbird experience and education not only equipped him to better understand and work effectively across cultures, but also gave him the global business skills that are now key to foreign policy in a growing global economy.

“Business plays an increasing role in policy and how it functions in the global marketplace,” he said, pointing out that the school itself is a model of diplomacy. “Thunderbird is diplomacy in action. The school brings together people with a common set of interests but who have different experiences and different points of view.”

Reeker was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in several parts of the United States and Australia and spent the past 16 years abroad. He says the world is his hometown.

“Philip Reeker, like so many Thunderbird graduates, is the living embodiment of the school’s mission to educate leaders who are a driving force in making the world a better place,” said Thunderbird President Angel Cabrera, Ph.D. “His career of foreign service throughout the globe is truly notable, and we are confident his work in Macedonia will be equally impressive.”

The appointment marks the second time in recent months that a person affiliated with Thunderbird has been nominated to serve as an ambassador. Former Thunderbird trustee Barbara Barrett was appointed ambassador to Finland in April. Reeker also joins Niels Marquardt, a 1980 graduate, as Thunderbird alumni currently serving as ambassadors. Marquardt serves as U.S. Ambassador to Madagascar.

Other alumni who formerly held ambassador positions include Luis Moreno, a 1977 graduate who served as Colombia’s Ambassador to the U.S. ; Lewis Lucke, a 1977 graduate who served as U.S. Ambassador to Swaziland; W.L. Brown, a 1960 graduate who served as U.S. Ambassador to Austria; and Tony Holmes, a 1979 graduate who served as U.S. Ambassador to Burkina Faso.