When Edward “Skip” Gnehm Jr. arrived at GW in the fall of 1962, he already had his goal in sight. He spent the next six years studying international affairs, and graduated with a BA and then an MA in international affairs. A distinguished career as a diplomat followed, including three ambassadorships.
In 2004, Skip retired from the U.S. Foreign Service and returned to his GW roots, first as a distinguished visiting professor and quite soon after as the Kuwait Professor of Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Affairs. Skip also has held numerous leadership positions at GW, including vice dean of the Elliott School and member of the university’s Board of Trustees.
Alyssa Ayres, dean of the Elliott School, stated: “To honor Skip’s tremendous contribution to GW and his dedication to his students, the GW Elliott School of International Affairs is embarking on a major philanthropic initiative to secure funds for the Ambassador Edward “Skip” Gnehm Jr. Fellowship. I am delighted and excited that two of Skip’s former classmates, Barbara W. Callahan and Gary C. Granoff, are leading the Gnehm Fellowship Initiative, as chair and vice chair, respectively.”
"Skip and I were friends at GW, and I can't think of a better way to honor his distinguished career than by establishing a fellowship in his name to support outstanding students of Middle East Studies at the Elliott School. These students will have him as a role model of leadership and integrity as they work to build relationships with and among nations in the region. I am honored to chair the Ambassador Gnehm Fellowship Initiative."
Barbara Willmarth Callahan, BA '67
Citibank (VP, ret.)
Former member of the GW Board of Trustees
"I look forward with enthusiasm to serving as vice chair of this terrific initiative in support of fellowships. Ambassador Gnehm, my friend and former classmate, has devoted his career to improving geopolitics in the Middle East. After serving his nation for 36 years, he returned to GW to teach others to do the same. Skip is humble, in spite of all that he has accomplished. His greatest desire is to pass on his tremendous knowledge to today’s students, so that they may one day solve the region’s most vexing challenges once and for all."
Gary C. Granoff Esq., BBA '69, JD '73
Managing Partner, Gary C. Granoff PLLC
Former member of the GW Board of Trustees
We would be honored to talk with you further about this tribute to Ambassador Gnehm, and hope you will join us in creating this fitting symbol of Skip’s impact. For more information, please contact Joseph Strodel, Assistant Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations, at [email protected].
The Ambassador Gnehm Fellowship for Middle East Studies
Known for his humility, Skip Gnehm credits his GW education and professors for opening his eyes to new ways of thinking and teaching him how to face challenges in his adult life. “Countless times in my career I could hear their voices with advice and counsel . . . there were so many times when I used what I learned here at GW to face the crises that were in front of me. I’m forever grateful to those here at GW who taught me.”
Given the importance of professors to his own career, Skip is a dedicated teacher and mentor. He has changed the lives of numerous alumni who now hear his voice as they make tough decisions in their professional lives. The Gnehm Fellowship, dedicated to supporting outstanding students in GW Elliott’s highly-regarded Master’s in Middle East Studies program, is the best possible way to honor Skip’s extraordinary contributions, as a diplomat and professor.
"Skip has tirelessly and passionately served as an advocate for our students. It is most fitting for the Ambassador Gnehm Fellowship to honor his legacy by enabling us to attract the best and brightest students to our Middle East Studies graduate program."
Dr. Mona Atia
Director of the Institute for Middle East Studies
In addition, in the Washington, DC, area, GW Elliott is in close competition with three peer schools of international affairs. Not infrequently, we lose high-caliber students to one of these competitors for financial reasons. In this past year alone, we know of several terrific applicants who preferred our Middle East Studies program, but chose to attend one of these peer schools because we were not able to offer sufficiently robust support.
The Ambassador Edward “Skip” Gnehm Jr. Fellowship will be a major force in reversing this trend.
The Gnehm Fellowship will do a great deal to attract, retain, and support the most outstanding entering or continuing graduate students in our Middle East Studies program, whether from the United States or abroad. At GW Elliott, we teach students to view the geopolitical landscape through multiple lenses – an imperative in our global world. In addition, a multicultural classroom enriches the learning experience for all Elliott students.
As well as offering much-needed support to recipients, the Gnehm Fellowships will confer honor and prestige on those who receive them. Along with this goes a level of confidence that Gnehm Fellows will carry with them long after they graduate, a confidence that will guide them in their work to stabilize the Middle East.
In the words of Professor Marc Lynch, director of the Middle East Studies Program, “The [Arab Spring] uprisings profoundly reshaped every conceivable dimension of Arab politics.” It will indeed take a new generation of exceptional global leaders to take fresh approaches in the search for pathways to peace and wellbeing in the Middle East. Students of GW Elliott’s Middle East Studies program are poised to take on this challenge.
"The world needs motivated, educated, and intelligent leaders in order to make big changes. As an Elliott graduate student, I was constantly presented with new challenges and opportunities – the key is to not shy away from these challenges and instead take them head on."
Middle East Studies MA '19
Program Analyst, US Department of Energy
GW Elliott’s Middle East Studies Graduate Program
The Elliott School’s Middle East Studies (MES) graduate program has become one of the most dynamic places to study a critically important region of the world. The program is highly interdisciplinary, with courses in anthropology, history, politics, religion, and geography, as well as Arabic, Hebrew, and Persian. MES students develop a well-rounded understanding of the region and can function in a multilingual, globalized environment.
GW Elliott’s Institute for Middle East Studies (IMES) strongly supports students in the program, providing research opportunities abroad and a robust roster of lectures given by major political figures from the US and across the Middle East and North Africa.
In addition, IMES is widely recognized for its faculty, who are both leading scholars and influential thought leaders. Also enriching the academic experience is the Project on Middle East Political Science, a premier scholarly network headquartered at IMES, and the Middle East Policy Forum, which has become a robust forum for debate – under Skip Gnehm’s leadership. The institute also hosts the Middle East Studies Association, a leading network of scholars studying the region.
Priya Vithani, one of Skip Gnehm’s students, came to GW to research the connections between entrepreneurship and democratic development in the Middle East. Her studies were not limited to the classroom – she interned with a social startup in Jordan, researched the sociopolitical dynamics of entrepreneurs in Egypt, and even worked full time at the US State Department, covering North Africa. Following graduation, Priya first earned a fellowship at Kiva Microfinance, a position that took her to Lebanon, Morocco, and Jordan. Next came positons with the World Bank Group, where for a time she was based in Beirut. Now with the World Economic Forum, Priya works on sustainable economic and social practices – drawing on cutting-edge technology such as big data and artificial intelligence.
Priya advises current MES students to leverage GW Elliott’s unparalleled locations. “Being in DC, you are surrounded by hundreds of think tanks, NGOs, and academic events or conferences. Go to as many of these as you can, ask questions, and talk to people there (network genuinely). And lastly, don’t underestimate the interconnectivity of the field that is Middle East Studies. The people you meet and study with could one day end up being your future coworkers or even supervisors – my former boss at the Department of State is an alumnus of the program!
About Ambassador Edward “Skip” Gnehm Jr.
Ambassador Gnehm was born on November 10, 1944, in Carrollton, Georgia. He attended the George Washington University, graduating with a B.A. in International Affairs in 1966 and a M.A. in 1968. From 1966-1967, he attended the American University in Cairo, Egypt, under a post-graduate Rotary International Fellowship. Subsequent to graduation, Ambassador Gnehm worked for the United States Navy.
Ambassador Gnehm joined the faculty of GW’s Elliott School of International Affairs in August 2004 as the J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Visiting Professor of International Affairs. He was appointed to his present position as Kuwait Professor of Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Affairs in August 2006. He is also director of the Middle East Policy Forum. Prior to coming to the Elliott School, Ambassador Gnehm had a distinguished 36-year career in the U.S. Foreign Service. He was a member of the Senior Foreign Service and held the rank of Career Minister. His career record follows.
- 2001-2004, U.S. Ambassador to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
- 2000-2001, U.S. Ambassador to Australia
- 1997-2000, Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Personnel for the U.S. Department
- of State
- 1994-1997, Deputy Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations, New York
- 1991-1994, U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait
- 1989-1990, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of New East and South Asian Affairs
- 1987-1989, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Near East and South Asia
- 1984-1987, Deputy Chief of Mission, American Embassy, Amman, Jordan
- 1983-1984, Director, Secretariat Staff, Department of State, Washington, D.C.
- 1982-1983, Director, Junior Officer Division, Bureau of Personnel, Department of State
- 1978-1981, Deputy Chief of Mission, American Embassy, Sanaa, Yemen Arab Republic
- 1976-1978 Head, U.S. Liaison Office, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
- 1974-1975, Deputy Principal Officer, U.S. Interest Section, Damascus, Syria
Ambassador Gnehm has received two international decorations: the Kuwait Decoration Medallion Special Class from His Highness the Amir of Kuwait Shaikh Jaber Al-Sabah and the Order of Istiqlal First Class from His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan.
Ambassador Gnehm received the Presidential Distinguished Service Award in 2000. In 2004, Secretary of State Colin Powell awarded Ambassador Gnehm the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award for his work in Jordan. He also received two Presidential Meritorious Service Awards: in 1990 for his public service as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and in 1991 for his service as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State.
During his career, he received a number of other State Department awards, including Superior Honor Awards for his service in Kuwait and Riyadh; in Washington as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State; and in Taif, Saudi Arabia, as special envoy to the Kuwaiti Government. In addition, he received Meritorious Honor Awards for his work in Damascus and Beirut. Ambassador Gnehm has been awarded two Secretary of Defense Medals for Meritorious Civilian Service: one by Secretary of Defense Carlucci for his service in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and a second by Secretary Perry for his support to U.S. forces during and after Desert Storm.
In addition, the National U.S. Arab Chamber of Commerce in 1993 recognized Ambassador Gnehm for his support for U.S. business abroad.
Ambassador Gnehm also has received university-wide recognition and honors. In 2017, GW honored Ambassador Gnehm for his distinguished service to the United States and the George Washington University, awarding him the GW President’s Medal, the university’s highest honor. The award recognizes individuals who have exhibited courage, character, and leadership in their chosen fields. Previous recipients include three Nobel Peace Prize laureates.
Ambassador Gnehm received the George Washington University’s Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award (1992); the New York City Alumnus of the Year award, conferred by GW’s New York City Alumni Club; and the Jane Lingo Alumni Outstanding Service Award (2012). GW faculty peers in 2015 honored Ambassador Gnehm with the Harry Harding Teaching Award, “for sustained excellence in teaching and extraordinary contributions to the education of Elliott School students.”
Ambassador Gnehm served for seven years as a member of the George Washington University Board of Trustees and was a member of the Board’s Executive Committee and chairman of the Student Affairs Committee. He was previously vice president of the General Alumni Association and recently served as faculty representative to its board of directors.
Ambassador Gnehm was elected to the American Academy of Diplomacy in 2005. He holds leadership positions in several organizations including: the American Center of Research (ACOR) in Amman, Jordan; ANERA (American Near East Refugees Aid); the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington; and the Senior Living Foundation. He is a member of the Middle East Institute, DACOR (Diplomatic and Consular Officers Retired), the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training, the American Philatelic Society, the American Foreign Service Association, and Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Maryland.
Ambassador Gnehm is married to the former Margaret Scott of Macon, Georgia. They have two children, Cheryl and Edward Gnehm, III.