Ambassador John K. Menzies, PhD, who served as Graceland’s 16th president from 2002 through 2006, passed away on Saturday, March 26, 2022. He was 73 years old.
Prior to joining Graceland as President, he was Chief of Mission at the U.S. Office in Kosovo and served as the United States Ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina. During his time at Graceland, he was instrumental in recruiting over 300 international students to the University, mostly from the Balkan states. Menzies was beloved by the multitude of students that he helped bring to Graceland, including Aleksander Memca who attended with 10 other students from Macedonia.
Memca serves on Graceland’s board of trustees and said this of Menzies, “I’m going to be eternally grateful to John for his actions, and I’m humbled by his grace. I expressed my feeling of joy and gratitude to him when we met, and he simply said, ‘We should always look for ways to bring outstanding talent to Graceland as that’s how we build a legacy for the institution.’ He impressed me then as I’m sure he impressed many in his life. I believe I’m a better person in part because of him. He was a great soul and will be missed.”
Menzies was originally appointed to the Board of Trustees in 1998 by Community of Christ World Conference resolution. He ultimately resigned his post as a trustee so he could submit his application as president.
Menzies was a Graceland alumnus and earned his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville before going on to earn his PhD in German from the University of California, Berkeley. He began his career on the frontlines of international diplomacy in Hungary, where he served as U.S. cultural affairs officer and deputy public affairs officer from 1982 to 1985. While there, he discussed the possibility of sending Hungarian students from Eotvos University in Budapest to study at an American college and initiated the first-of-its-kind student exchange with Graceland in the fall of 1985. He initiated a similar exchange with Bulgaria in 1989.
After Graceland, he served as the Dean of the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University until 2013. Through his career in foreign service and academia, he was given a multitude of awards, including the Department of State Superior Honor Award, an American Bar Association award for dedication and service toward advancing the rule of law, and the Bulgarian Order of the Madarsky Konnik in 1991. Menzies founded the American University in Bulgaria, a testament to his commitment to promoting democracy and education in the region.
Graceland President Patricia H. Draves said, “John was an outstanding person and he continued to provide generous counsel to me until very recently. He is responsible for bringing many international students to Graceland from Bosnia, Kosovo, and other Balkan states, something he continued to be committed to even as recently as a few weeks ago. He will be missed.”
A memorial service for Ambassador Menzies will be held at the Community of Christ, 3526 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, D.C., on Sunday, April 3, at 4 p.m. The Graceland flag on the Lamoni campus is flying at half-staff in his honor.
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