Richard Lundberg, An Appreciation
By Mark L. Asquino
My good friend, Junior Officer Trainee (JOT) classmate, and former colleague, Richard Lundberg, sadly passed away on January 9. I was able to see him at the hospital to say a last goodbye on the evening before his passing.
I first met Richard in late October 1978 when we both started our Foreign Service orientation and training classes at 1425 K Street. The Carter Administration had recently renamed USIA the “U.S. International Communication Agency” (ICA). In our entry class of fifteen new officers, ably overseen by JOT coordinator Bev Hendricks, Richard stood out from the start. He was a quick learner who deftly grasped whatever we were taught. This ranged from how to operate already obsolete Victor 16 mm film projectors to the nuances of bone-dry, “international communications” theory. The latter had become a staple of the short-lived ICA. In 1983, one of President Ronald Reagan’s first acts, for which I will always be grateful, was to change the name of the agency back to USIA.
Richard was not only keenly intelligent, but also had a delightful sense of humor and a quick wit. For example, our State Department A-100 classmates often poked fun at the new agency’s name, noting the similarity between “CIA” and “ICA.” In response, Richard came up with the slogan: “ICA: Lies not spies! We’re the other guys,” which another classmate promptly put on tee-shirts for all of us.
Richard and his charming wife Ann were a key part of my small, JOT circle that included Mary Jo Furgal, her husband Joe, and David Cohen. More than 40 years later, we are all still close friends.
Richard was one of the most gifted language learners in our JOT class. Starting with Polish, he went on to master Finnish, Icelandic, and Estonian. His “easy” language was Romanian, which we both studied in 1990-91 as we prepared for tours together in Bucharest. I was the CAO and Richard was the IO, and we worked together exceptionally well as a collegial team. This was a difficult time in Romania following the recent fall of the brutal Ceausescu regime. I was a single officer back then, and Richard and Ann frequently invited me to their home for delicious meals. Their friendship meant a great deal to me in what was an often-challenging post.
Richard had a distinguished, overseas public diplomacy career that later included serving as PAO in Iceland and Estonia. In Washington, he spent a year working on Capitol Hill in the prestigious Pearson Fellowship Program. And his final assignment was as a career development officer in HR, helping guide and advise first and second tour officers.
In later years when his health declined, Richard was always quick with a joke and hearty laugh whenever we saw each other or spoke on the phone. It is hard for me to think that he is gone. But along with so many others he knew, Richard touched my life and made a difference wherever he went. I consider myself so lucky to have met him on that cold October day so long ago.
Ambassador (Ret.) Mark Asquino is a retired Foreign Service Officer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.