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Autobiographical Sketch

I was born in Provo, where my Dad was Chairman of the Department of Zoology and Entomology at BYU. My wife Patricia grew up in New Jersey and after graduating from Kent Place, a private girls school, she went to BYU and while there was elected as the President of the Associated Women Association. At the same time, I was at the University of Utah. Pat and I met on a blind date after student leaders from both schools met together after a BYU and Utah basketball game.

At my June 1954 graduation at the U, I received my academic degree and my commission as an Ensign in the US Navy. I had been assigned to the USS Hornet CVA 12. It was a combat Essex class aircraft carrier. Three weeks after my graduation I flew to Sangley Point Naval Air Station located at Cavite City, Philippines. After overnighting I was picked up by sailors from the Hornet, which was anchored in Manila Bay. I remember that when I saw the carrier, I was impressed with its size. After reporting in after going aboard, I was made the Assistant Signal Officer in the Operations Division. Within a few weeks the Division Officer was transferred to another ship and I took over the Division of nineteen very experienced sailors. The next two years that I spent on the Hornet were some of the most important years of my life.

When I left the Navy, I recognized that I had come to really appreciate the cultures of the countries where the ship had visited during my years aboard the Hornet. I also had decided that what I wanted was an International career. I was able to be admitted to the University of California, Berkeley, where I received an MBA in 1960. While at Berkeley, I took the written Foreign Service exam and passed it. I had a wonderful professor who had been in the Foreign Service mentor me, and he told me what books and materials I needed to read before taking the exam. After I passed the written exam, I flew to Washington D.C. to take the oral exam for the Foreign Service. I also passed that portion of the exam process. At the same time, I married Pat Nowell of Mendahm, New Jersey in September of 1960 in the Salt Lake temple. We were married by Apostle Harold B. Lee. We spent two weeks in Mendahm and had a nice wedding reception in the Nowell’s beautiful home. I then received a call, where I was told that I needed to report to Washington on October 24th in 1960. I was enrolled in the A-100 course at the Foreign Service Institute (which all new Foreign Service officers are required to take). It was an outstanding review of virtually all of the responsibilities that each of the departments carried out in the operations of the U.S. government given by department officials.

At the end of the FSI training, I was assigned to Seoul, Korea, where I spent my first ten months overseas learning the various operations of a U.S. embassy. In October of 1961, Pat and I received orders to report to the embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia as an Assistant Cultural Affairs officer, but after a few months I met with the ambassador and said, “We need a program for student leaders from the Universities in Jakarta.” He readily agreed and I also became the director of the first American Center in Jakarta. I had had some experience in Korea, where there were many student groups meeting weekly at the American Center in Seoul.

The program that I developed in Jakarta was a huge success. We had student discussion groups weekly, of which I led, dealing with all aspects of American culture and government. We had a small auditorium where we had evening programs featuring live American jazz programs and lectures given by Americans knowledgeable in the government and culture of the U.S. There was also a library with book stacks filled with essentially every subject pertaining to aspects of American life and culture. Many of the top student leaders, particularly from the University of Indonesia, participated in programs at the Center.

The program was so successful that the Communist students at the University became very upset with the influence the United States was having on other students, and in the December of 1964, approximately 300 of these Communist students physically attacked the Center. They broke into the building, shattered the windows, pushed over the stacks of books and tried to set them on fire, broke the Great Seal of the United States in half, and did as much damage to the building as they possibly could. I was in my office on the second floor, where the reference library was located, and rocks were flying in from the windows. I had locked the door to my office, but the students knocked the door down. I thought I was going to be killed; however one of the students assured me that they wouldn’t harm me, but instead told me, “We’re sending a message that we want this Center closed, and that we do not like the actions of the United States in our country.”

In the days following the attack, we had meetings with the ambassadors and other embassy officers about whether or not we should open the Center again. The decision was made that we should open the Center again, but within two months after extensive repair and reopening, an even larger number of students again came to the Center. This time, they did not attempt to enter the building nor do any damage, but they were chanting that the Center had to be closed. I was not permitted to leave the building, so I was actually a hostage for the entire day. The ambassador was out of the country at the time, but the Deputy Chief of Mission at the embassy spent a good part of the day negotiating with Indonesian government officials at the Merdeka Palace (Freedom Palace), where Sukarno lived and had his offices as President and Prime-Minister of Indonesia. The U.S. embassy officials told the Indonesian officials that if they didn’t help rescue “our” young Foreign Service officer, it would create serious problems between the United States and Indonesia.

The next thing I knew, two large truckloads of Red Berets—which are the equivalent to the U.S. Secret Service Agents—were jumping off of their trucks with their guns pointed at the students. They cleared a path so that I could get out of the building, through which I ran to an embassy vehicle. After this second incident, the U.S. Information Service closed all of its offices in Indonesia. All Foreign Service officers with USIA were transferred to other posts around the world.

I was transferred back to Seoul, and was made a Branch Public Affairs officer for the southern provinces of South Korea. After a few years, I was transferred to Washington D.C., where I spent the next three years of my work.

We were then assigned to Karachi, Pakistan, where I was made the Cultural Affairs officer, and I was also made the Director of the American-Pakistani Cultural Association. It was an outstanding assignment. The Pakistanis were extremely interesting people, and we loved the culture and the many friendships that we developed during our time there. However, I had very serious medical problems, due to getting one case after another of amoebic dysentery. After I had lost about thirty pounds, the embassy doctor came from Islamabad to Karachi to examine me and said that I needed to be transferred yet again.

After two years of what was supposed to be a four-year assignment, we were transferred back to Korea. This time, I was made Director of the American Center in Seoul. It was a tremendously large program; we had over forty discussion groups which met weekly for university students, and we had major exhibits and seminars at the Center. Each group of students had an American advisor. The program was so successful that it received recognition by the Department of State, which sent out a notice to other embassies around the world reporting, “This is what we’re doing in Seoul, Korea, and we would encourage you, if possible, to organize such a program.”

I was now considered a mid-career officer, and there was a program offered by the Department of State based on a bill sponsored by Senator Pearson of Kansas. The program, called the Pearson program, gave mid-career officers the opportunity to do work with state and local government, rather than working in Washington. I applied for the program and was accepted, and I became the special assistant to Mayor Jim Ferguson of Provo, Utah. During my two years in Provo, I wrote the first Economic Development five-year report, which resulted in the establishment of an Economic Development Office in Provo City. I was requested to become the first director of this department, but I decided that I wished to remain in the Foreign Service.

I was then assigned to Cape Town, South Africa as the Branch Public Affairs officer. This was considered an important position because the ambassador and department counselors from the embassy in Pretoria spend at least six months of the year in Cape Town during the meeting of South Africa’s Legislative Parliament. So, I worked as the Public Affairs Officer for seven months of the year working directly with the ambassador. Pat and I had come to feel that South Africa was our finest assignment while we were posted abroad. This was a difficult assignment, but one that I really enjoyed, as I worked with South African government officials, including the Prime Minister while he was there. Pat, myself, and our son Tim, who was a student at a private boy’s school, all really liked the Africana food, loved all of the people of various races, and enjoyed a beautiful house in Constantia, an upscale housing section of Cape Town.

After four incredible years in Cape Town, I was assigned to be the Cultural Attaché in Canberra, Australia, working with one of the finest ambassadors I had worked with during my 27 years of postings around the world. Ambassador Bill Lane was a superbly capable ambassador, and a terrific man. His wife Jean was an outstanding ambassador’s wife as well. During the year that I spent in Canberra, we accomplished many programs at universities, cultural institutions, and with student organizations. However, after one year, our three boys that were all living in the U.S. at the time encouraged us to return home, and so I resigned from the Foreign Service.

We left in October of 1987. During debriefings in Washington, I was asked by a State Department official if I would be interested in doing some contract work with the Department of State. I replied, “Yes.” They then said, “Well, we’re going to have to give you another test,” which I passed with flying colors; thus I became a Liaison Officer working with the International Visitor’s Leadership Program under the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. I ended up spending 26 years working with some of the finest leaders from countries around the world. The work included a week in Washington, meeting with various members of Congress and other department officials in the U.S. government. We then flew to cities all across the U.S. to meet with state and local officials in business, government, education, health, and the arts. This work gave me the incredible opportunity to really have an in-depth look at all aspects of what constitutes the great American society.

During this process and after the aforementioned debriefings in Washington, we spent the next two months with Pat’s parents in Forest City, Pennsylvania where my father-in-law had retired. In December of 1987, we drove from Forest City to Washington, where I picked up a new Mercedes Benz that I had ordered before I left Canberra. The other vehicle we had was a new pickup truck, and its truck bed was filled several feet high with things that had been stored in Pennsylvania.

After arriving back in Provo in January of 1988, I received a call from the state representative for District 63, which included the area of east Provo down to Provo Center Street and over to University Avenue. She told me that she had been made president of the Young Women’s Organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and wondered if I would be interested in becoming a candidate as a representative in the Utah House of Representatives. I told her that I would be interested, and later was elected.

My first session in the Utah House began in January of 1990, and I was elected for five terms, for a total of ten years. I was successful in having some of my bills on ethics reform be passed into law, but my most significant bill was passed in 1994 when I was able to pass the first state-wide ban in the United States that took smoking out of all public buildings in Utah. It was considered one of the most important public health bills in Utah until that time, and it became a model for other state legislatures to follow. Other things that I accomplished during my years on Utah’s Capitol Hill include being chair of the Brigham Young Statue Commission, which involved the placement of the Brigham Young Statue in the Capitol’s rotunda, as well as being the chair of the legislative input of the extensive renovation of the Capitol building.

Also during this period, I worked with students at the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies at BYU Provo. I knew Ambassador Kennedy personally, and considered him an outstanding representative of the United States. While at the Kennedy Center, I gave workshops for hundreds of students interested in becoming Foreign Service officers or other jobs related to diplomacy of the United States.

My wife Pat had the opportunity to work in every post where we lived. She wrote two books: one was commissioned by AID in Korea, and in Cape Town, she wrote a book on teaching English as a second language in the schools of South Africa while she was working at the University of Cape Town. Also while in Korea, she worked as a secretary in the Political Section, and in Indonesia, she was the administrator for the Ford Foundation. Pat was a very talented and lovely women. Unfortunately, she passed away in February of 2019. Our three sons were all born in Korea. Our oldest son Eric was a Korean orphan whom we adopted while living in Korea, and he passed away in July of 2021 of a massive heart-attack.

Our kids absolutely loved living abroad. They often told me that they can’t imagine how lucky they were. In Pakistan, they went to the international school which was quite close to our residence. They really liked going to school there and meeting with students that were children of embassy and consulate officials from around the world.

When we were assigned to Cape Town, our second oldest child, Jeff, wanted to graduate from Provo High. Tim, our youngest son, went to Cape Town, where he graduated from a very prestigious private school called Bishop’s, which was one of the top schools in all of South Africa. Many of the South African Prime Ministers had received their education at Bishop’s. He loved it there, and when he enrolled at BYU, his education at Bishop’s was so good that he was placed in the honor program at BYU.

I would like to make a few comments on why I think it’s important for BYU students to pursue careers as Foreign Service officers. In the world we’re living in today, diplomacy has never been so critical. We are plagued with a tremendous number of serious issues related to NATO, the war in Ukraine, and Foreign Policy issues of the present administration. Many American Foreign Service officers are working with refugee programs and other service programs in countries around the world. I don’t think that the President handled our departure from Afghanistan well at all, and we’re paying the price for that.

Young people with backgrounds in any number of disciplines are needed in the Foreign Service. It really doesn’t matter what a student majors in at BYU; all majors are very much needed in the diplomatic service. And for me, there is no finer career than being a diplomat. I strongly encourage students who have an interest in living abroad, and for furthering diplomatic relations of the American government, to consider taking the Foreign Service exam and hopefully become a Foreign Service officer. The Foreign Service exam process is a strenuous exercise, but I know of one student that I mentored who is now in the political section in Beijing that went through the process four different times before he was able to enter the Foreign Service.

Finally, I would like to discuss the V Jordan and Patricia N. Tanner endowment to the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies for student scholarships in American diplomacy. During the period that I was working with students, I recognized that there were students that had financial needs. Pat and I talked about it, and we said, “We’ve saved a little bit of money over the course of our life, and we don’t have a lot, but we would still like to establish an endowment for the Kennedy Center.” With the few donations we’ve made, the endowment now is approximately $166,000. I hope in the years to come, there will be many students that have been recognized to receive scholarship assistance and go on to enter the Foreign Service, and I hope that those that do will contribute to the endowment to help the students of the future. It would be also my hope that others interested in assisting students would be able to contribute to the endowment as well.