Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy

AFSA’s Award for Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy honors those who have made extraordinary contributions to diplomacy and the diplomatic profession over many years. The American Foreign Service Association established its award for Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy in 1995. By giving this high-profile award, AFSA also seeks to bring greater recognition to its other awards, including its unique annual awards for constructive dissent.

Originally, there were no criteria beyond those implied by the award’s name. First in 2009, and later in 2016, the AFSA Governing Board refined the criteria guidelines to be as follows:

  • The nominee should have at least a decade of service to diplomacy and foreign policy development, and have made an enduring, positive impact on the diplomatic profession itself, including but not limited to promoting the Foreign Service’s primary role in foreign policy within the executive and legislative branches and strengthening the institution of the Foreign Service.
  • The nominees are normally retired career diplomats, but may include other individuals in exceptional circumstances. When looking at an individual who was not a career member of the Foreign Service, one must consider the effect that the individual has had on promoting the role of the Foreign Service and championing diplomacy. 
  • The nominees are considered for their accomplishments during both active duty and in retirement. The enduring impact of their work on diplomacy, the profession, and diplomatic institutions and practices is particularly important.
  • Nominees must be able to attend the awards ceremony in person.

The presentation takes place during AFSA’s annual Awards Ceremony, typically in October in the Benjamin Franklin Diplomatic Room of the State Department. The Secretary of State is invited to present this award. If the Secretary is unable to attend, a distinguished individual who has worked with the recipient is asked to present the award. Colin Powell presented the award to Thomas Pickering and to George Shultz; Elliot Richardson presented the award to Frank Carlucci; Mr. Carlucci presented it to Lee Hamilton; Robert Zoellick presented it to Richard Lugar; Senator Lugar presented to award to Senator Nunn; and Lawrence Eagleburger presented the award to Joan Clark. Honorees are presented with a globe and certificate. Click here for a complete list of previous recipients.

For information on these awards, please contact AFSA's Awards Coordinator, Perri Green, at or (202) 719-9700.


The American Foreign Service Association proudly awarded its 2017 Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy Award  to Ambassador Nancy J. Powell in honor of her distinguished career and lifelong devotion to the long-term well-being of a career professional Foreign Service. Past recipients of this award include George H.W. Bush, Thomas Pickering, Ruth Davis, George Shultz, Richard Lugar, Joan Clark, Tom Boyatt, Sam Nunn, Rozanne Ridgway, and William Harrop. The award was presented on June 20 at 4:00 p.m. during a ceremony in the Benjamin Franklin Diplomatic Reception Room at the Department of State.

Nancy J. Powell was born in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and earned her B.A in history and teaching from the University of Northern Iowa in 1970. She taught high school social studies in Dayton, Iowa, before joining the Foreign Service in 1977. During her 37-year career in the Foreign Service, she served as desk officer for Nepal (1980-1984), Deputy Chief of Mission in Togo (1990-1992), Deputy Chief of Mission in Bangladesh (1995-1997), Ambassador to Uganda (1997-1999), Ambassador to Ghana (2001-2002), deputy assistant secretary for Africa (1999-2001), Ambassador to Pakistan (2002-2004), Ambassador to Nepal (2007-2009), Director General of the Foreign Service (2009-2010), and Ambassador to India (2012-2014).

Powell, a career ambassador, has earned both the Arnold L. Raphel Memorial Award and a Homeland Security and Law Enforcement Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal. Following her retirement in 2014, Amb. Powell coordinated the response to the Ebola virus and mentored ambassadorial seminar classes. Her dedication to mentorship is widely known and admired, not least by the many generations of Foreign Service and civil service professionals who benefited from her time and expertise.