Fifteen years ago this very month I got a call from Ambassador Roscoe S. Suddarth, President of the Middle East Institute, informing me that Mary-Jane Deeb was stepping down as as Editor of The Middle East Journal and inviting me to be a candidate for the job. In October of that year I became Editor. Ambassador Suddarth, always "Rocky" to those who knew him, passed away on June 29. I owe Rocky a lot more than just my job. He was a strong supporter of the Journal, and of me. And one of the nicest and smartest people I have known.
Rocky was a career diplomat, and served as US Ambassador to Jordan from 1987 to 1990. He took over as President of MEI after his retirement, serving from 1995 to 2001. He was the first of three MEI Presidents I have served as MEJ Editor.
Rocky hailed from Nashville and had the easygoing manner of a Tennessean, but with overlays of Yale and Oxford. Under his Presidency MEI created its Public Policy Center, and Rocky and his wife Michele landscaped the Islamic garden in the MEI courtyard as a donation to the Institute.
After retiring from MEI, Rocky, an enthusiast for modern jazz, went back to graduate school to acquire another Master's degree, this one in music, at age 72.
MEI has lost a leader and benefactor, and I have lost a friend.