Cynthia Shepard Perry

Cynthia Perry is now retired, after serving her country with distinction as US Executive Director of the African Development Bank in Cote d’Ivoire and Tunisia from 2001-2007 and as US Ambassador to Sierra Leone from 1986-1989 and to Burundi from 1989-1993.


In a video profile for UMass, she said:


When I was still in high school, we were required to take a course called civics. The teacher—his whole concept was service. The reason why you are here on Earth is to help make it a better place to live… And so I came away from there thinking I was going to be an ambassador. By the time I got to UMass, I was asked, what are you going to do with a doctorate in international education? And I said, "Well I'm going to be an ambassador."


Cynthia was the first woman to earn a doctorate from the International Education program. UMass Amherst also awarded her an honorary Doctor of Public Service (1988), a Distinguished Alumni Award (2002), and a Salute to Service Award (2014) which recognizes outstanding individuals for their contributions to civic engagement and public service. Her alumni profile provides more details.


After her time at CIE, Cynthia became Associate Professor and Associate Director of Teacher Corps/Peace Corps at Texas Southern University, and later full Professor and Dean of International Affairs from 1978-1982. She was then appointed as Chief of the Education and Human Resources Division in the Africa Bureau of USAID, where she served until her appointment as US Ambassador in 1986.


She published a memoir All things being equal: A woman’s journey (1998) about her experiences as a woman of color navigating the corridors of power.


The Cynthia Shepard Perry papers are archived in the Special Collections and University Archives of UMass Amherst: “A record of a life in international service in Africa, the Perry papers includes materials from [her] time as head of the African Development Bank and her two ambassadorial appointments, including speeches, some correspondence, and a handful of publications.”


She continues to serve as Honorary Consul General of Rwanda in Texas, appointed by President Kagame and confirmed by the US State Department. Ambassador Perry had lived in Rwanda for a year after her retirement from the African Development Bank.






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CIE Graduate