Yale Bulletin and Calendar

February 1, 2002Volume 30, Number 16

Cyrus Vance

Library exhibit pays tribute to
alumnus and statesman Cyrus Vance

The Sterling Memorial Library will pay tribute to Yale alumnus and former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance in a memorial exhibition featuring photographs, books, notes, correspondence and other items documenting Mr. Vance's many years of government service.

Mr. Vance, who is also a former Yale trustee, died on Jan. 12 in New York. He was 84.

The items on view in the library exhibition are drawn from the papers Mr. Vance and his wife, Grace Sloan Vance, donated to Yale in 1993. On display through early March, the exhibition is located in the library's Memorabilia Room.

Among the items on view are documents related to Mr. Vance's government service as general counsel for the U.S. Department of Defense; as secretary of the Army; as President Lyndon Johnson's special representative during the Cyprus crisis and Detroit civil unrest in 1967; as ambassador to the Paris Peace Talks on Vietnam; and as secretary of state under President Jimmy Carter. In pictures, Mr. Vance is captured with U.S. presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Carter, and with such heads of state as Leonid Brezhnev of Russia, Israeli foreign minister Moshe Dayan, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menahem Begin, among others.

A member of the Yale College Class of 1939 and a 1942 graduate of the Yale Law School, Mr. Vance served in the Navy during World War II and was discharged in 1946 with the rank of lieutenant, senior grade. After working for a year for the Mead Corporation, he joined the New York law firm of Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett, where he spent his entire legal career.

Mr. Vance entered government service in 1956 and held many high positions. After serving as general counsel to the Defense Department, he become secretary of the Army under President Kennedy in 1962 -- the same year the Army was called in to oversee the opening of the University of Mississippi to African Americans. He held the post until 1967.

When one of the nation's worst riots broke out in Detroit, Michigan, in the summer of 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson called upon Mr. Vance to serve as his special emissary to take charge of the situation and guide federal assistance for the area. Later that same year, President Johnson asked Mr. Vance to assist and guide Greek-Turkish negotiations to help avert an impending war in Cyprus. A year later, the president sent him to South Korea to reassure the South Korean president of the United States' support after North Korea seized the Pueblo, an American intelligence-gathering ship.

In 1968, as a deputy to chief U.S. negotiator W. Averell Harriman, Mr. Vance tried to negotiate a settlement with the North Vietnamese. President Johnson awarded him the Medal of Freedom, the government's top civilian award, the following year.

Mr. Vance re-entered government service when he was appointed secretary of state by Jimmy Carter in 1977. As secretary of state, Mr. Vance took part in strategic arms negotiations with the former U.S.S.R., helped negotiate the Panama Canal Treaties and took part in the Camp David peace talks in 1979. He was credited with playing an important role in the historic agreement that established peace between Israel and Egypt.

Mr. Vance served as secretary of state until 1980, when he resigned in protest of Carter's plan for a military rescue of American hostages in Iran. The military mission failed, and Mr. Vance won notoriety as only the second secretary of state in history to resign on a matter of principle. Calling the day of his resignation "one of the most painful days of my life," Vance said he doubted the rescue mission would succeed and had fears that it would impede diplomatic efforts to free the American hostages. Mr. Vance returned to private practice after his resignation, but his negotiating skills remained in demand. During the 1980s and 1990s, he participated in negotiations in disputes between Azerbaijan and Armenia, in South Africa, and in the former Yugoslavia. There, Mr. Vance negotiated a cease-fire in Croatia that allowed for the entrance of a U.N. peacekeeping force.

An economics major at Yale, Mr. Vance was a loyal alumnus. He was elected by fellow alumni to serve on the Yale Corporation in 1968 and then was named a successor trustee on Yale's governing body in 1974. The demands of his job as U.S. secretary of state forced him to step down from the Yale post four years later. However, he again served on the Corporation from 1980 to 1987. Among other accomplishments, Mr. Vance is credited with helping found Yale's School of Management.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Vance is survived by five children, son Cyrus R. Vance Jr., and daughters Elsie, Amy, Grace Roberts and Camilla.

The Sterling Memorial Library exhibit in Mr. Vance's honor can be viewed Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.


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