Karl W. Eikenberry to join Buffett Institute as executive director in September 2016

November 23, 2015

Former US ambassador named Buffett Institute leader

April 14, 2016: Ambassador Karl Eikenberry Update

The Buffett Institute is excited to embark on a new chapter of growth as it welcomes Karl W. Eikenberry, former US ambassador to Afghanistan, as its first executive director. He will officially assume the role on September 1, 2016.

In an official statement, President Morton Schapiro said, “We are thrilled that Ambassador Eikenberry will be the inaugural leader of the Buffett Institute at such an important juncture in Northwestern’s history. He has played a highly visible role on the world stage with his frank and insightful ideas about some of the most critical issues of our day and will play a central role in taking the scope and impact of our global programs to an entirely new level.”

Eikenberry currently teaches at Stanford, where he is the Oksenberg-Rohlen Distinguished Fellow and a faculty member of the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center. He also is affiliated with the Center for Democracy, Development and Rule of Law; the Center for International Security and Cooperation; and The Europe Center. As a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he participated in its Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences, their Commission on Language Learning, and led a project on the threats to global security posed by civil wars. He is a graduate of the US Military Academy and has master’s degrees from Harvard University and Stanford University in East Asian studies and political science, respectively. He was also a national security fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. 

Before his arrival at Stanford, Eikenberry served from May 2009 to July 2011 as the US ambassador to Afghanistan. He had a 35-year career in the US Army, retiring in 2009 with the rank of lieutenant general after serving as the deputy chairman of the NATO Military Committee in Brussels and previously commanding the US-led military coalition in Afghanistan.

Eikenberry serves as a trustee for the International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Asia Foundation, and the National Committee on American Foreign Policy. In addition to being a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Academy of Diplomacy, and the Council of American Ambassadors. He previously was the president of the Foreign Area Officers Association. His articles and essays on US and international security issues have appeared in Foreign Affairs, The Washington Quarterly, American Foreign Policy Interests, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy, and the Financial Times.

In a joint statement to the Buffett Institute community, Director Bruce Carruthers and Director of Programs and Research Brian Hanson said, “Ambassador Eikenberry brings an unusual and outstanding combination of skills, knowledge, experience and connections to the Buffett Institute. His military and diplomatic background will enrich the Buffett Institute’s expanding activities and offer new ways to realize the ambitions expressed in Roberta Buffett Elliott’s recent gift. We very much look forward to working with him in our next chapter of growth.”

After his appointment was announced, Karl answered a few questions about becoming the Buffett Institute’s first executive director:

What drew you to the Buffett Institute, Northwestern, and this new role?

There were many good reasons I was drawn to Northwestern and the Buffett Institute, but three stand out. First, Roberta Buffett Elliot's extraordinary commitment to improving the world of today and tomorrow.  Second, Northwestern University's excellent reputation as a center for research and education.  And third, the tremendous honor of joining a superb institute with such a dedicated and talented group of faculty, fellows, and staff, and together with them contributing to the mission of positively transforming the university's global studies program. 

What do you look forward to working on here when you arrive next fall?

I look forward to learning from the Institute’s stakeholders–faculty, fellows, students, staff, partners, and donors–about the research, education programs, and possibilities at Northwestern and at the Buffett Institute. There are many exciting projects and activities that are already well-established at the Institute and have the potential for further growth. Additionally, the grant money will allow educators, researchers, and students at Northwestern and at partner organizations to collaborate and innovate across interdisciplinary and geographic boundaries, and conduct intellectually trailblazing work.

What are your goals for the Buffett Institute?

Northwestern and the greater Chicago area offer an excellent platform for convening public dialogues on the major global issues of the day.  I look forward to helping make that platform ever more prominent and available.