Luncheon in Honor of Bob Willner Willamette University, February 4, 2012
Luncheon in Honor of Bob Willner
February 4, 2012
Remarks of James A.R. Nafziger, former OIC President
Let me welcome all of you to this luncheon in honor of Bob Willner, our good friend and esteemed colleague in the work of the Oregon International Council (OIC) and the Confederation in Oregon for Language Teaching (COFLT) — an executive director extraordinaire! Let me also express our great appreciation to your wife, Phyllis. To both of you: our love and warmest wishes!
We all know that Bob was the OIC from the start. Let’s review the history. At the end of 1979, Bob was still in the trenches of the U.S. Foreign Service when President Carter’s Commission on Foreign Language and International Studies issued its Report, Strength Through Wisdom. Oregon became the first state, or at least one of the first states, to set up a Governor’s Commission to implement the Report. Several of us here today were involved in its preparation. More importantly, in what must have been one of the State Department’s most benevolent acts of foreign assistance, Bob was seconded to Oregon on a Pearson Fellowship to serve as Executive Director of the Governor’s Commission and on the staff of the Oregon Department of Education. His assignment was to convert the recommendations of the President’s Commission into effective programs here. And that he did, for sure. In 1982, on Bob’s initiative, the OIC was established to carry out this work. Later that year, Bob, who was already an acting director, was appointed Executive Director, effective January 1983.
So, to paraphrase Dean Acheson, Bob was present at the creation of the OIC. In fact, he was the creator, and he’s been a creative, energetic leader ever since. He made it clear that, in the words of the federal commission’s Report, its implementation should rely whenever possible on volunteer assistance, cooperation from existing agencies, and contributions of time and money for special projects. Its style should be that of catalyst, energizer, encourager, public educator, and public conscience. Bob himself was all of these at every stage of the OIC’s development.
I only wish we had time for me to list all of Bob’s accomplishments as Executive Director, from the wonderful teaching training programs he organized in Puebla, Mexico and elsewhere to the periodic seminar series here in Salem on Japan, China and other cultures, not to mention the preparation of standards and requirements for international and foreign language education throughout the state. Bob was consistently where the action was, and where it still is. His legacy also continues in the form of the annual Oregon International Opportunities Directory and in the archive of Bob’s blue-colored newsletters, first “The Outlook,” then “OIC Connections.” He did all of this and far more — tirelessly, selflessly and effectively — including the administration of COFLT in recent years. He gave so much and received so little. Oregon will always remain your beneficiary, Bob.
Unfortunately, all good things have to come to an end, and so, on Feb. 4, 2010, we finally had to accept Bob’s resignation as Executive Director — exactly two years ago today. I say “finally” because it wasn’t the first time Bob had gracefully attempted to resign. We just couldn’t let him go so fast. Bob, you certainly earned your long-awaited retirement! All of us here today, and many others, wish you the very best. JN