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CFR’s former President Peter Tarnoff passed away on November 1, 2023, at age 86.
The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) mourns the passing of Peter Tarnoff, CFR president from 1986 to 1993. Under his stewardship, CFR’s public profile reached new heights. For the first time, CFR opened its events for public television coverage and produced its first ever radio and television programs. Tarnoff moved CFR’s intellectual agenda into a more interdisciplinary direction, including programming on economics, science, and technology. He also continued CFR’s long-term efforts to broaden the institution’s membership base and expand its national reach.
A dedicated Foreign Service officer for over twenty-five years, Tarnoff served in Nigeria, Vietnam, Germany, France, and Luxembourg, and held policy posts in Washington, DC. In the Jimmy Carter administration, he served as special assistant to Secretaries of State Cyrus R. Vance and Edmund S. Muskie. Prior to joining CFR, Tarnoff was executive director of the San Francisco-based World Affairs Council of Northern California. Upon leaving CFR, he returned to the State Department as the sixteenth undersecretary of state for political affairs. In recognition of his service to his country, Tarnoff was honored with the Department of State’s highest award, the Distinguished Service Award for extraordinary service in advancing American interests through creative and effective diplomacy.
A committed CFR member for forty years, Tarnoff remained involved with CFR activities on the West Coast for the remainder of his career. He will be greatly missed by his many friends and colleagues at CFR.