rocky photo

ROSCOE SELDON SUDDARTH - CLASS OF 1952

When his classmates voted Rocky Suddarth “Most Likely to Succeed” in 1952 it is unlikely they pictured the president of the student body riding on a camel. But, that was the picture that appeared in the Washington Post on July 15, 2013 in an obituary about the veteran Foreign Service officer and specialist in Middle Eastern affairs.

Rocky left Nashville after graduation to attend Yale University and while he never lived in the city thereafter he maintained friendships with classmates for the rest of his life. One of those classmates was Joe Knox who commented at the memorial service how Suddarth had expanded his vocabulary by introducing him to words like “erudite” when they were in Cub Scouts!

Obviously the thirst for knowledge began at a young age and continued for a lifetime. After receiving his undergraduate degree at Yale he went to the University of Oxford in England and received both bachelor and master’s degrees in modern history. While working for the State Department he earned a master’s degree in systems analysis at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1972. As if that were not enough, he received a master’s degree in musicology at the University of Maryland in 2008 after he had retired from fulltime employment. When asked what he intended to do with his study of music at a time when most people would be playing golf (which he also did), his reply was “What an American question. I intend to contemplate beauty!”

Perhaps it was his lengthy career in a volatile part of the world that contributed to this need to see beauty in the midst of chaos. He was in the Air National Guard from 1958 to 1961 while preparing to be a Foreign Service officer. His first assignment was in Bamako, Mali from 1961 to 1963. It was not all work and no play for he met his future wife, Michele Labas, when the native of France won a singing contest on a steamboat on the Niger River. They married while he was still stationed in Bamako, but under Malian law he had to attest that he had not paid more than two cows for his bride. He said “in our system you pay after rather than before the wedding.” Michele said many times during the marriage that he still owed her the cows.

Suddarth was obviously fluent in English and French when his diplomatic career began, but it was enhanced by his acquired fluency in Arabic and Spanish. After Mali he was stationed in Lebanon, Yemen, Libya, and Saudi Arabia with periods of stateside service interspersed from 1961 to 1987. President Ronald Reagan nominated him to be Ambassador to Jordan and the Senate confirmed the appointment. After serving from September 1987 to July 1990 he returned to the United States and was a professor at the Naval War College. In June 1995 he retired from the Foreign Service with the rank of Career Minister.

However, his working days were not over and he assumed the presidency of the Middle East Institute, a nonprofit think tank in Washington, DC for six years. He was also on the Board of Advisors at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, and an independent director of several mutual funds.

Although he was diagnosed with leukemia for the last twelve years of his life he maintained an active lifestyle throughout the course of the disease. He was able to travel to France and celebrate his fiftieth wedding anniversary as well as play golf and bridge with friends up to a few days before he died. The memorial service for him in Washington, DC on September 9, 2013 was attended by several hundred people. Speakers ranged from friends at West and Yale to ambassadors and government officials of several countries. His widow, son, Mark Suddarth of St. Louis, daughter Anne Suddarth of Nijmegen, Netherlands, four grandchildren and a niece were also present for the two hour celebration of the life of the man voted Most Likely to Succeed six decades earlier.

rocky photo

ROSCOE SELDON SUDDARTH - CLASS OF 1952

When his classmates voted Rocky Suddarth “Most Likely to Succeed” in 1952 it is unlikely they pictured the president of the student body riding on a camel. But, that was the picture that appeared in the Washington Post on July 15, 2013 in an obituary about the veteran Foreign Service officer and specialist in Middle Eastern affairs.

Rocky left Nashville after graduation to attend Yale University and while he never lived in the city thereafter he maintained friendships with classmates for the rest of his life. One of those classmates was Joe Knox who commented at the memorial service how Suddarth had expanded his vocabulary by introducing him to words like “erudite” when they were in Cub Scouts!

Obviously the thirst for knowledge began at a young age and continued for a lifetime. After receiving his undergraduate degree at Yale he went to the University of Oxford in England and received both bachelor and master’s degrees in modern history. While working for the State Department he earned a master’s degree in systems analysis at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1972. As if that were not enough, he received a master’s degree in musicology at the University of Maryland in 2008 after he had retired from fulltime employment. When asked what he intended to do with his study of music at a time when most people would be playing golf (which he also did), his reply was “What an American question. I intend to contemplate beauty!”

Perhaps it was his lengthy career in a volatile part of the world that contributed to this need to see beauty in the midst of chaos. He was in the Air National Guard from 1958 to 1961 while preparing to be a Foreign Service officer. His first assignment was in Bamako, Mali from 1961 to 1963. It was not all work and no play for he met his future wife, Michele Labas, when the native of France won a singing contest on a steamboat on the Niger River. They married while he was still stationed in Bamako, but under Malian law he had to attest that he had not paid more than two cows for his bride. He said “in our system you pay after rather than before the wedding.” Michele said many times during the marriage that he still owed her the cows.

Suddarth was obviously fluent in English and French when his diplomatic career began, but it was enhanced by his acquired fluency in Arabic and Spanish. After Mali he was stationed in Lebanon, Yemen, Libya, and Saudi Arabia with periods of stateside service interspersed from 1961 to 1987. President Ronald Reagan nominated him to be Ambassador to Jordan and the Senate confirmed the appointment. After serving from September 1987 to July 1990 he returned to the United States and was a professor at the Naval War College. In June 1995 he retired from the Foreign Service with the rank of Career Minister.

However, his working days were not over and he assumed the presidency of the Middle East Institute, a nonprofit think tank in Washington, DC for six years. He was also on the Board of Advisors at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, and an independent director of several mutual funds.

Although he was diagnosed with leukemia for the last twelve years of his life he maintained an active lifestyle throughout the course of the disease. He was able to travel to France and celebrate his fiftieth wedding anniversary as well as play golf and bridge with friends up to a few days before he died. The memorial service for him in Washington, DC on September 9, 2013 was attended by several hundred people. Speakers ranged from friends at West and Yale to ambassadors and government officials of several countries. His widow, son, Mark Suddarth of St. Louis, daughter Anne Suddarth of Nijmegen, Netherlands, four grandchildren and a niece were also present for the two hour celebration of the life of the man voted Most Likely to Succeed six decades earlier.