Peter Geithner: an appreciation

Mark Sidel

Peter F Geithner, for decades a pivotal figure in the Ford Foundation’s programmes in Asia and a long-time catalyst for the development of philanthropy in the region, died in July 2016. He has been remembered at private and public services in Orleans, Massachusetts; at the Ford Foundation in New York; and in Beijing.  

Peter joined the Ford Foundation in the early 1960s and worked there for almost 30 years. He served as deputy representative for India, representative for South-east Asia, programme officer for developing country programmes and as the foundation’s first representative for China, in Beijing. Peter also served as adviser to the Asia Center at Harvard University, China Medical Board, Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and other organizations, and on the boards of bodies such as the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, China Center for Economic Research, Center for the Advanced Study of India, and Institute of Current World Affairs. ‘He was devoted,’ his family has written, ‘to his colleagues and friends throughout the world and to their aspirations and causes.’

Peter was the guiding force of the Ford Foundation’s extraordinary work in Asia after moving to Delhi with his spouse Deborah in the late 1960s. In the ensuing years he worked in or very strongly influenced Ford’s extensive philanthropic efforts in Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

Ford’s work in the region has been effective because of its ethos of programming based on local needs and priorities through country and regional offices; Peter represented, defended and strengthened that philosophy in all his working life for Ford.

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