The staff and faculty of the Duke Center for International Development (DCID) at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy express their gratitude and appreciation to Dr. Francis Lethem, who will step down from his role as director effective June 30. Lethem has served as director since 2006.
“Francis Lethem is a treasure,” said Dr. Kelly Brownell, dean of the Sanford School. “Few people are as talented, wise, experienced and giving. Francis is a remarkable presence at Duke, in Sanford, and of course at DCID. I have so enjoyed working with him.”
Lethem will continue to serve on the teaching faculty at DCID, where he has taught since 1994.
“It’s not what has changed that I’m most proud of – it’s what hasn’t changed,” Lethem said. “DCID still has extraordinary faculty and staff, all at the top of their expertise, all guided by values of selfless dedication to the future of developing countries, and all caring for their students and each other.”
Lethem joined Duke after working for 30 years at the World Bank in institutional development and human resource management. He also served as a policy adviser on project design and was responsible for quality assurance of the Bank’s Eastern Africa project portfolio.
Bill Ascher, founder of DCID, met Lethem while serving as a visiting scholar at the Bank. The two found they shared many views about international development, including the importance of taking a holistic and context-specific approach.
“It’s human nature to assume that if an approach works you try to transplant it,” Lethem said, “But best practices only work in a specific environment. Understanding the context in which you are working is critical.”
Ascher invited Lethem to DCID to teach in the Master of International Development Policy (MIDP) program. Since that time, Lethem has instructed MIDP fellows on how to design and manage projects for sustainable development and conflict prevention. In 2002, Lethem became director of graduate studies for the MIDP program.
“If there is one thing I hope MIDP fellows take from the program, it’s the importance of appreciating what you do not know,” Lethem said. “Interdisciplinarity means your ability to bring together and synthesize a variety of different fields and viewpoints.”
A native of Belgium, Lethem earned his doctorate in economics from Neuchatel University in Switzerland in 1967 and was a fellow at Harvard University’s Center for International Affairs in 1975 and 1976.
“As director of DCID, Francis was there when one needed him and always with the right advice,” said Dr. G.P. Shukla, professor of the practice of public policy and director of the Tax Analysis and Revenue Forecasting (TARF) Executive Education program.
The Sanford School will conduct a search for a new director at the beginning of the Fall 2015 semester. Until that time, Jonathan Abels, executive director of DCID, will serve as interim director.