By Published: Feb. 27, 2017

Alum gives $100,000 to International Affairs Global Grants Program


It was during a summer-long family trip to Europe that 13-year-old Mary Ann Casey cemented her career plan: diplomacy.

"You embark overseas as a citizen of a single country; you return home as a citizen of the world," says Casey, who graduated in 1970 from the University of Colorado Boulder with a degree in international affairs.

She should know. Traveling with her parents was an important part of her early life. And with each mile, she inched closer to her life as that citizen of the world.

After graduating from CU Boulder, she says an expeditionary learning trip to Arab North Africa and the Middle East helped form her future of working with the U.S. State Department as a Middle East expert, and as a deep area specialist for Arab North Africa.

Casey and de Klerk

Mary Ann Casey meets F.W. de Klerk, the former President of South Africa, who helped bring his country to black majority rule. De Klerk was on a good will tour in Tunisia, after Nelson Mandela had been elected to succeed him. At top of page, Ambassador Casey inspects the Honor Guard at Tunisia's Presidential Palace with Chief of Protocol General Mohamed Berrehouma. After the ceremony, Casey called on Tunisia's president to present her diplomatic credentials. Photos courtesy of Mary Ann Casey.

Casey went on to spend 27 years in the U.S. diplomatic corps, including 12 years on assignment at American Embassies in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, where she managed international security, human rights and trade relations.

“As a diplomat and eventually as an ambassador, nothing was more satisfying than helping to advance the well-being of our country and its citizens, by protecting American interests and by promoting U.S. foreign policy,” Casey says.

And now Casey has found another satisfying activity: giving. This past November, she created the Casey Family Global Grants Endowment with a $100,000 gift to help endow the Program in International Affairs Global Grants scholarships given to majors to study abroad.  Her endowment adds to international affairs’ larger Global Grants Endowment that has a goal of $250,000.

Casey says two goals motivated her donation:

  • A desire to encourage international affairs majors to become global citizens   
  • A desire to inspire other donor partners to contribute.

Casey is an enthusiastic fan of CU Boulder’s International Affairs Program and the Global Grants Scholarship program.

“I parlayed my international affairs degree from CU into a highly successful career as an American diplomat, and I believe the Global Grants program can help today's CU students succeed similarly,” she says. “Study abroad is essential if CU's students are going to compete effectively in a global world.  And what better way to advance that objective than through the Global Grants Scholarship program.”

Tom Zeiler, professor of history and director of CU's Program in International Affairs, says Mary Ann has been a friend to the program and its students for decades.  

“Ever since she was a CU student, through her foreign-service career, including as a diplomat in residence at CU, and now as chair of the advisory board, Mary Ann has been a stalwart supporter and role model,” Zeiler says. “And with this generous gift, she’s an inspiration – renewing our commitment to serve the students and reminding us how one person can make a difference in the lives of many. We’re grateful for Mary Ann for being International Affairs’ greatest benefactor.”

The International Affairs Program is one of the largest majors at CU Boulder, with roughly 800 students, 56 percent of whom study abroad.

The Global Grants are $1,000 need- and merit-based scholarships for international affairs majors studying abroad on academically challenging and service-oriented programs. To date, more than $70,000 in grants has been awarded. Grant recipients have studied a range of themes, including international development in Ecuador and India; Arabic language in Amman, Jordan; Chinese language in Beijing, China; public health in Thailand and Botswana; and diplomacy in Geneva, Switzerland.

Benjamin Lourie, who graduated in May with a degree in Russian studies, studied in St. Petersburg, Russia, for a semester, thanks to a Global Grant.

“The experience was transformative both personally and professionally,” Lourie says. “I became more mature while abroad, and I came out of the trip with clearer post-graduate goals and overall ideas about what I want to do with my life.”

Casey adds that understanding the world “beyond our borders is essential to building a strong future for America and for its people. Comedian Will Rogers once remarked that America's two best friends were the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. That no longer applies. Now, what happens anywhere matters everywhere, as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright so wisely observed.”

To learn more or to give, click here.