APPLETON, WIS. — Robert (Todd) Becker, a former U.S. foreign service officer and deputy head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Mission in Croatia, will spend Spring Term as Lawrence University’s Distinguished Visiting Scarff Professor. He joins the Lawrence government department, where he will teach the upper level seminar “The United States and Europe in the 21st Century.”
A specialist on Germany, Central Europe and the Balkans, Becker enjoyed a 34-year career with the U.S. State Department that included two assignments in Greece spanning five years during crises in the Aegean and southern Balkans, as well positions in Germany and Brussels.
Following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Becker established the first U.S. Consulate General — the first in a former Warsaw Pact country — in Leipzig in the former German Democratic Republic. He also was instrumental in establishing a strong U.S. commercial and political presence in the regions of Saxony and Thuringia.
From 1997-2000, Becker directed the political affairs unit in the U.S. Mission to the European Union in Brussels, where he was responsible for developing closer political and security relations with the EU.
Earlier in his career, he directed the Political Officers’ Training Division of the Foreign Service Institute and served as a foreign affairs and security advisor to U.S. Congressman Dick Cheney (R-Wyoming) and Senator Gary Hart (D-Colorado).
In 2000, Becker joined the OSCE, an inter-governmental organization that traces its roots to the 1975 Helsinki Accord and established under the charter of the United Nations. The 56-member body, which Becker describes as “the least known yet one of the more effective security organizations in the world,” includes all European countries, including Russia, as well as the United States and Canada.
He served as OCSE’s Deputy Head and Ambassador to the Mission in Croatia for seven years, an assignment that was originally scheduled to last nine months. During his tenure, he saw Croatia transition from a post-Communist and authoritarian regime into a struggling democracy seeking NATO and EU membership. At the end of his assignment in Croatia, Becker was recognized with the Croatian Helsinki Committee Human Rights Award, the first foreigner to receive the honor.
Prior to coming to Lawrence, Becker spent a year in Kiev, Ukraine, as an OSCE senior project manager.
A native of Washington, D.C., who grew up in Falls Church, Va., Becker earned a bachelor’s degree in German from Carleton College and a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota, where he also has completed all the course work for his Ph.D.
He joins a long list of distinguished scholars and notable public servants who have previously held the Scarff professorship, among them McGeorge Bundy, national security adviser to presidents Kennedy and Johnson, William Sloane Coffin, Jr., former chaplain at Yale University, noted civil rights advocate and peace activist and Takakazu Kuriyama, former Japanese ambassador to the U.S.
The Scarff Memorial Visiting Professorship was established in 1989 by Edward and Nancy Scarff in memory of their son, Stephen, a member of the Lawrence class of 1975, who died in an automobile accident in 1984. It was designed to bring civic leaders and scholars to Lawrence to provide broad perspectives on the central issues of the day.