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15 March 2021
UNA Tribute to Ed Luck
By Toby T. Gati, President of TTG Global LLC

Ed and I came to UNA-USA at about the same time.  I was one year ahead of him in completing  the Master’s Program at Columbia University’s School of International Affairs and Ed graduated from Columbia and joined UNA-USA the following year.  We were always a team, working together for almost two decades on every program that UNA-USA undertook.   We worked on policy issues of national importance, and developed the  Parallel Studies Programs with the USSR, China and Japan which  brought so much international acclaim to  UNA-USA.  We also wrote articles together for scholarly journals and for newspapers and magazines on American foreign policy and the UN, as well as on the challenges facing the international system.  We both had front row seats to the collapse of the Soviet Union, and worked tirelessly to inform policymakers and academics about the monumental changes that we knew were coming.  When we wrote our articles or policy papers, we would exchange ideas while sitting in Ed’s office and then decide who would write which paragraphs.  When it came time to put our thoughts together into one piece, they almost always meshed perfectly.

While I had the luxury of running policy programs, Ed, as President and CEO, had to run a large, complex organization that required full time management, diplomatic and representational skills, as well as  the ability to fundraise.  Ed succeeded at all these tasks and left UNA in much better shape after ten years than when he became President in 1984.

At work, Ed always treated everyone with respect and valued their opinions.  He cared about people and their everyday concerns, as well as about policy issues.  Those who worked closely with him also knew that he had a wry sense of humor, which I am sure helped him get through some of the tough times he faced both at UNA and at the UN.

On a personal level, he was a fiercely loyal friend and colleague.  He also adored his wife Dana and his daughter and nothing made him happier than to sit and talk about their successes.  He and Dana often held events for the UNA  staff at their beautiful home  and all of us looked forward to these gatherings.

In 1992, I left UNA-USA to work in the Clinton White House on US-Russian relations and US policies towards the Newly Independent States of the Former Soviet Union.  Ed went on to an incredibly successful career at the United Nations, including as the first Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General on the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and  UN Assistant Secretary-General. The list of other important positions he held and the themes he wrote on is simply too long to list here.

A lot of people in countries around the world -- probably none of whom knew Ed personally -- benefited from his commitment to R2P and his unceasing efforts to make the UN function better.  At the same time, students who attended  Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs were able to benefit from Professor Luck’s  immense knowledge of international relations and conflict resolution.   

And now Ed is gone.  It is an enormous loss, both personally and professionally.  I have never known anyone who cared more about what he did, and especially about how our country could develop a better foreign policy at  the UN and how the United Nations system could be more effective.

Whatever he did, he did with enthusiasm and commitment. Ed, I will miss you.