Dr. James T. Laney to receive peace award for diplomacy with Korea

By Kofi Stiles | Nov. 20, 2019

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Former Emory University President James T. Laney will receive the World Methodist Council’s 2019 Peace Award. Since 1977, the World Methodist Council, representing 80 million Methodists globally, has honored individuals who contribute to peace, reconciliation, and justice. The award acknowledges Dr. Laney’s efforts to promote peace between North and South Korea.

Dr. Laney’s legacy is etched in the history of Emory University. From 1969 to 1977, he served as dean of the Candler School of Theology. In 1978, he became president of Emory University, a position he held for 16 years. With the help of a $105 million gift from the Emily and Ernest Woodruff Foundation in 1979, Dr. Laney steered the university into the first ranks of research universities, a status recognized by the 1995 invitation to join the Association of American Universities, an organization comprised of 65 leading North American research universities. 

A central part of President Laney’s vision for Emory was—and remains—a commitment to doctoral education. In 2009, The James T. Laney School of Graduate Studies (Laney Graduate School) was named in his honor.

Dr. Laney’s ties to Korea began when he served there with the United States Army Counter-Intelligence Corps shortly after World War II. Having witnessed the hardships experienced by Korean citizens in the postwar era, Laney was inspired to return to the country as a Methodist missionary from 1959 to 1964.

In 1993, then President Bill Clinton named Laney United States Ambassador to South Korea, a post he filled for nearly two-and-a-half years. During his term, he worked with President Clinton and former President Jimmy Carter to avert military action over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. For several years, he co-chaired the Council on Foreign Relations Task Force on Korea and he was a keynote speaker at the Roundtable Meeting for Peace on the Korean Peninsula held at The Carter Center in Atlanta in 2018. 

“We are especially grateful for Dr. Laney’s leadership and legacy for Emory and beyond, and to experience the effects of his enduring commitments to peace,” says, Lisa A. Tedesco, Vice-Provost for Academic Affairs-Graduate Studies and Dean of the Laney Graduate School. “This award is much deserved and yet another recognition for his visionary and transformative leadership.” 

The award will be presented at a ceremony on Nov. 21, at 7 p.m., in the sanctuary of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church at 458 Ponce de Leon Avenue, Northeast.