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 may be retired career diplomats but could 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 at the Department of State. 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 Programs and Member Engagement department. They are available at


AFSA is honored to announce that Ambassador Marc Grossman will receive the association’s 2024 Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy Award in recognition of his commitment to American diplomacy and his important impact on the Foreign Service and the foreign affairs community.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Ambassador Grossman earned a B.A. from the University of California, Santa Barbara and an MSc. in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He began his career in the Foreign Service in 1976, serving his first tour at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan (1977-1979). He returned to Washington as a Staff Assistant in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and then the Desk Officer for Jordan. Ambassador Grossman was next assigned to the U.S. Mission to NATO in Brussels and then became the Deputy Director of the Private Office of the NATO Secretary-General. Returning to Washington, Ambassador Grossman served as Executive Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of State (1986-1989).

Ambassador Grossman then became the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Türkiye (1989-1992), Executive Secretary of the State Department, and then U.S. Ambassador to Türkiye (1994-1997).

Ambassador Grossman was confirmed as the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs in 1997, where he played a crucial role in enlarging NATO and organizing NATO’s 50th Anniversary Summit in Washington. As Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources from 2000 to 2001, Ambassador Grossman supported the creation of the Diplomatic Readiness Initiative and focused attention on new ways to train, assign, and retain personnel.

Ambassador Grossman was confirmed as the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs in 2001. He helped marshal the diplomatic response to the terrorist attacks on 9/11, managed U.S. policy in the Balkans and Colombia, and contributed to a further enlargement of the NATO alliance. He became a Career Ambassador in 2004.

Ambassador Grossman joined The Cohen Group as a Vice Chair after his retirement in 2005. He was called back to the Department to serve as the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (2011-2012). He received the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award in 2005 and the State Department’s Distinguished Service Award in 2013. He was awarded the Director General’s Cup for the Foreign Service in 2006.

Ambassador Grossman has served as the Chairman of the Board of the Senior Living Foundation of the American Foreign Service since 2009. Ambassador Grossman has also contributed to efforts to strengthen and reform U.S. diplomacy, including co-authoring the CSIS study The Embassy of the Future (2007), the Harvard University Belfer Center’s report A U.S. Diplomatic Service for the 21st Century (2020) and Arizona State University’s Blueprints for a More Modern U.S. Diplomatic Service (2022), all supported by the Una Chapman Cox Foundation. With Ambassador John Limbert, he is the author of the novel Believers: Love and Death in Tehran.

Ambassador Grossman will be honored at AFSA's annual Awards Ceremony on October 16, 2024.