Our Programs

Cultural Diplomacy

In recollection of Lois Roth’s efforts to promote cross‐cultural understanding and cooperation as a US Foreign Service Officer, the Roth Foundation partners with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) (US State Department), to provide the department’s four awards honoring excellence in the field of cultural and educational diplomacy.

Pictured here at the 2019 ECA Awards Ceremony (left-right): Jeffrey Ladenson (Lois Roth Award Hon. Men.), Marta Garcia de Bello (Gill-Jacot Guillarmod Hon. Men.), Richard Arndt (LRF Founder), Yolanda Robinson (Ilchman-Richardson Winner), Nicole Bayer (Lois Roth Award Winner), and Helen Reidy (Gill-Jacot Guillarmod Winner)
  • The Lois Roth Award recognizes a Foreign Service Officer with the US State Department.
  • The Ilchman‐Richardson Award recognizes an ECA administrator who has made significant contributions in the domestic management of US cultural diplomacy.
  • The Gill Jacot‐Guillarmod Award and the Gill Jacot-Guillarmod Career Achievement Award recognize locally-employed specialists, working at an embassy or consulate overseas, who have made outstanding contributions to the mutual goals of the U.S. and host country in cultural and/or educational diplomacy.
  • In 2018, the Roth Foundation introduced the Emeritus Award, designed to honor lifetime contributions to international cultural and educational relations. In addition to retired diplomats, eligible candidates may have a different background, including in but not restricted to government, universities, US non-profits, international NGOs, etc.

The types of qualities displayed by recipients of Roth Foundation cultural diplomacy awards include:

  • Cross‐cultural sensitivity and understanding for all—regardless of age, race, religion, color, sex, national origin or disability—and the courage and intellectual integrity to bring alternate facts and opinions into open conversation
  • Ingenuity and imagination in creating projects, programs and products to deepen the contact between foreign intellectuals, artists and professionals and their US counterparts
  • Familiarity with global affairs and foreign languages, to deepen substantive discussion between US and foreign intellectuals, scholars and professionals
  • Patience, wisdom and generosity in helping new colleagues, both international and US, develop their careers
  • Special skill in promoting collaborations between US and foreign institutions and high‐quality exchange opportunities with the civil sector.

Our Awards

Lois Roth Award For Cultural Diplomacy

The Lois Roth Award is presented every year to a Foreign Service Officer who has made significant contributions to the field of US cultural and educational diplomacy. It honors those who exhibit cross-cultural sensitivity in all aspects of their work and show patience, wisdom and generosity in helping new colleagues—international and American—to pursue and develop their skills and careers. Displaying familiarity with different areas of the world, global affairs and foreign languages, winners of this award hold substantive discussion with US and foreign scholars, artists and professionals, while exemplifying Lois Roth’s personal legacy of superior creativity and human warmth in their work with others.

The 2022 Lois Roth Award went to Regional English Language Officer Jennifer Uhler in Tallinn, Estonia. She covers Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Russia, but she has also served in Central Asia, East Asia and South America. In all her assignments, Jen has brought an understanding of how English language skills promote cross-cultural communication, open doors to educational and job opportunities, and provide a way to share U.S. culture and values. The impact of her teacher-training programs has lasted long beyond her assignments and have been continued and expanded by her successors. Jennifer is the first Foreign Service Specialist to win the Lois Roth Award.

An Honorable Mention was also awarded to Cultural Affairs Officer Richard Pinkham from U.S. Embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan for his use of the spectrum of cultural and educational exchange programs to foster greater stability and cohesion in the South Caucasus. Through in-person and virtual exchanges for think-tank analysts, academics, students, English language teacher training and new American cultural programming spaces, Richard significantly improved the lives of millions of Azerbaijanis, Armenians, and Georgians.

Ilchman‐Richardson Award

Instituted in 2007, the Ilchman‐Richardson Award recognizes an ECA employee in Washington who has made significant contributions to the management of US cultural diplomacy, while leading and mentoring others. It is named in appreciation of two former ECA Assistant Secretaries, Alice Ilchman and John Richardson. After her tenure at ECA, Alice Ilchman, formerly Dean of Wellesley College, became the Associate Director of USICA and USIA (1979‐81) and then the President of Sarah Lawrence College, before becoming chair of the board of the Rockefeller Foundation; she directed the Jeanette Watson Fellowships until her death in 2006. John Richardson became Assistant Secretary for State/ECA (1968‐77) after years in corporate law, investment banking and Radio Free Europe; after his tenure, he headed Youth for Understanding and chaired the boards of the US Endowment for Democracy and the US Institute of Peace.

The 2022 Ilchman-Richardson Award went to Matthew McMahon. As Deputy Director of the Office of Citizen Exchanges, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Matthew McMahon uses his skills, experience, cross-cultural understanding and creativity, combined with his patience and wisdom, to lead teams to success. Throughout his career, Matt has worked extremely well with Posts and regional bureaus, modeling how ECA civil service managers contribute subject matter expertise, management experience, and broad regional awareness as well as knowledge of relevant domestic issues and constituencies, to support and collaborate with colleagues at Posts to achieve the Department’s foreign policy goals.

Gill Jacot‐Guillarmod Awards

Established in 2013, Gill Jacot-Guillarmod Awards recognize Locally Engaged Staff members at US embassies and consulates who have made outstanding contributions in educational and cultural diplomacy to missions shared by the U.S. and the host country. These awards are named in honor of Gillian (Gill) Jacot-Guillarmod who served for 35 years at the US Mission in South Africa and Embassy in Pretoria, spanning the apartheid period to the emergence of democracy.

Such staff members share their deep institutional memory, personal relationships in the community and knowledge of local culture, society and politics. They also maintain continuity at US embassies and missions worldwide, as US Foreign Service Officers rotate every few years, and play an important role as mentors to new colleagues and supervisors alike. As Bruce Wharton, then-Acting Under Secretary for Public Affairs, put it in reference to 2015 “Gill” recipient Monica Alcalde:

“The things she taught me—from process, to substance, to style—have guided me as I moved from job to job across Latin America, the U.S. and Africa. Without Monica’s patient teaching and friendship, I don’t think I would ever have made it beyond Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer.”

Gill Jacot-Guillarmod, whom this award honors, served for thirty-five years in South Africa, spanning a period from the dark days of apartheid through to the peaceful emergence of democracy. Although it ran counter to the American democratic mission, in the 1960s and 70s the U.S. was under intense pressure from the South African government to support its state-sponsored racial segregation. Within this tense environment, Gill programmed hundreds of Fulbright and other grantees; later, with great political sensitivity, she worked to assist in South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy. Lois Roth considered Gill to be one of the most remarkable locally-employed staff she had ever encountered. This is also true of the dozen of Gill’s colleagues at USIS Pretoria, many of whom worked with the Roth Foundation to get this prize instituted. This award in Gill’s name thus represents the respect and admiration of a great number of people. She is remembered as a consummate cross-cultural communicator and bridge-builder, serving on behalf of all as a mentor, counselor and committed senior colleague. Read an Interview with Gill Jacot-Guillarmod, conducted by Foreign Service Officer Dan Whitman and published in his book Outsmarting Apartheid (SUNY Press, 2014).

The 2022 Gill Jacot-Guillarmod award went to Jane Susi. As a Public Engagement Specialist, at the U.S. Embassy Tallinn, Estonia, she oversees the range of programs that engage universities, think tanks, and other policy-oriented non-governmental organizations. Over her 15 years of service, Jane increased Estonian financial support of the Fulbright Program, greatly expanded the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant program, fostered diversity and inclusion in programs and grants, and solidified the Embassy’s cultural outreach to communities outside of the capital city, all the while training and mentoring staff throughout the region. Her work has not only been instrumental to shaping Embassy outreach, but also in helping participants thrive in their programs.

Alaa Mufleh of the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan received an Honorable Mention for her work as a dual-hatted Emerging Voices Specialist and Preventing/Countering Violent Extremism Specialist. Alaa’s programs engaged Jordan’s rising influencers, and empowered women and youth through experiential learning activities, designed not just to mitigate vulnerability to radicalization but ensure they are thriving across Jordan’s 12 governorates. A highlight was her programming of Jazz legend Herbie Hancock, culminating in a concert in a 2,000-year-old auditorium resulting in video products and prime-time news coverage that brought jazz into the homes of every Jordanian.

Career Achievement Award

To honor the most accomplished and longest-serving Locally Engaged Staff members, in 2020 the ECA Awards Committee and Lois Roth Foundation introduced a Career Achievement category for Gill Jacot-Guillarmod Award nominees. This award recognizes those who are nearing the end of their careers for long-standing dedication to their work and their success in what Gill described as “helping the United States while helping your own country.”

For over 36 years, Cultural Specialist Dorothy Ngalombi has guided the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, Uganda through film festivals, concerts, women’s writing retreats and much more. Her upcoming event to commemorate the Fulbright program has a team of Fulbright alumni supporting her because of her dedication to these scholars over the years. The annual Fulbright Kajubi Lecture Series will be another lasting result of the connections Dorothy has fostered. To honor her, the Public Affairs Section in Kampala is creating a Lifetime Achievement Award for its alumni community in the name of Dorothy Ngalombi.

Emeritus Award for Cultural Diplomacy

In contrast to the first three awards for excellence in cultural and educational diplomacy, which are restricted to actively employed individuals, the Roth Foundation’s Emeritus Award fills a longstanding need to recognize work in cultural diplomacy on the part of others. This occasional award recognizes lifetime contributions to deepening international educational and cultural dialogue and exchange. The selection panel candidates including, but not restricted to individuals with a background in government, universities, US non-profits, international NGOs, etc. It is guided by the attributes exemplified by Lois Roth: deep humanity, wisdom and generosity of spirit, as well as skill, ingenuity, cross-cultural insight, commitment to excellence and mentoring, and a conceptual grasp of the numerous interlinked components affecting education, culture and interpersonal communication.

Former Executive Director of the US-UK Fulbright Commission Penny Eagan with 2018 Emeritus Award winner Mark Taplin.

Penny Egan received the 2019 Lois Roth Emeritus Award for her lifetime of contributions to the field of cultural diplomacy, with a focus on international education. During her twelve-year tenure as Executive Director of the US-UK Fulbright Commission, Penny forged stronger educational links between the US and UK, gaining increased funding for American pre- and post-doctoral scholars to study at the top research universities in the UK. She also took important steps towards making international education more accessible through her creation of the Social Mobility Program, which provides funding for underprivileged UK undergraduates to attend American universities. Penny’s dedication to cultural and educational diplomacy has provided opportunities for hundreds of students to enrich their educational experience, and in doing so has fostered continued cultural exchange between the US and UK.

Nomination Process

Every spring, the Bureau for Educational and Cultural Affairs will internally circulate details regarding nominations for the Lois Roth Award, the Ilchman-Richardson Award and the Gill Jacot-Guillarmod Awards. Supervisors are invited to submit nominations in all three categories, which must include:

  1. Name and title of nominee;
  2. Name, title and email address of nominating supervisor;
  3. Work location of the nominee;
  4. Brief description of the role of the nominee at the overseas post or domestic ECA office;
  5. Narrative (not to exceed three pages) describing the achievement(s) of the nominee and justifying the nomination.

Nominations for the occasional Emeritus Award for Cultural Diplomacy may be submitted to the Roth Foundation via email at any time. Please include a c.v. for the individual and a narrative (not to exceed three pages) describing the achievement(s) of the nominee and justifying the nomination. The Foundation will assemble a committee to evaluate the nomination and reserves the right to: reject the nomination, should the committee so decide; or select the time and venue for bestowing the award, should the committee approve the nomination.