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History of the International Affairs Forum

A Look Back

1952-1992 – World Affairs Symposia held annually in the summer at the Leelanau School in Glen Arbor. Symposium attendees lived at the school for a week and attended lectures by foreign policy experts from government, academia, and media.

1993 – Community leader Philip Cochran assembled a 24-member advisory board to found a new organization: the International Affairs Forum. Phil was an active member of the Traverse City community and, in addition to serving as IAF Board Chairman, served as President of the Traverse City Economic Club, President of the Traverse Symphony Orchestra, and Board member both at Munson Hospital and Northwestern Michigan College.

October 20, 1994 – First IAF lecture presented. More than 150 speakers have appeared since then.

1998 – Richard Grout, community leader in Suttons Bay and decorated WWII veteran, becomes chair and serves in this capacity for the next 12 years.

2001 – IAF affiliates with the World Affairs Councils of America.

2001  – IAF Founder Phil Cochran dies at age 84. David Broder, Pulitzer-prize winning columnist for the Washington Post, presents the “Phil Cochran Memorial Lecture.”

2010 – Phil Thomas, former department chair of the Economics Faculty at Kalamazoo College, becomes chair.

2012  – Jack Segal and Karen Puschel become co-chairs bringing State Department and NATO experience to the organization.

2014  – China Conference that featured international, regional and local speakers addressing fostering business, political, cultural and educational relationships with China.

The International Affairs Forum partners with Northwestern Michigan College to present its programming. Five current Advisory Board members either teach or work at NMC, IAF’s monthly lectures are held in Milliken Auditorium at the Dennos Museum Center, and IAF receives support from NMC Extended Education Services with regard to mailings, printing, financial and media services.

IAF is an affiliate of the World Affairs Council of America (WACA). WACA is the largest non-profit grassroots organization in the United States dedicated to educating and engaging Americans on global issues with nearly 100 councils across 40 states reaching more than half a million people a year.

Past Speaker Highlights

  • David Broder, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist
  • James A. Baker, chief of staff to two U.S. presidents
  • Ambassador Feisal Istrabadi, deputy permanent representative of Iraq to the UN
  • Rajmohan Gandhi, biographer and grandson of Mahatma Gandhi
  • Doris Meissner, Commissioner of the INS
  • Former Governor James J. Blanchard

Ambassadorial Highlights

  • Africa: Princeton Lyman, Robert Gribbin
  • Brazil: Melvyn Levitsky
  • Bulgaria: John Beyrle
  • Former Soviet Union: William Taylor
  • Greece: Tom Miller
  • Iraq: Faisal Istrabadi, Deputy Iraqi Permanent Representative to the UN
  • Israel: Samuel Lewis
  • Pakistan: Robert B. Oakley
  • Russia: Jack Matlock, John Beyrle
  • Ukraine, Uzbekistan: John Herbst

Academician Highlights

  • Dartmouth College: Douglas Irwin (China)
  • Yale University: Ellen Lust (Arab Spring), John Starr (China)
  • University of Michigan: Zeynep Gursel (Turkey)
  • Michigan State University: Terrie Taylor (Malawi)
  • Barnard College / Columbia University: John Stratton Hawley (India)
  • U.S. Naval War College: Joshua Rovner (Intelligence)
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