Pate, Maurice

Pate, Maurice '15 (1894-1965), a founder (with Herbert Hoover) and first executive director of UNICEF, was born in Pender, Nebraska, of Welsh ancestry and came to Princeton from East Denver High School in Colorado. His college classmates later remembered him as ``a tall, dark, wavy-haired figure of boundless geniality and seemingly infinite energy, whose view of the world was much more advanced than that of most of us.'' He majored in mathematics and physics, managed the business affairs of the Lit, worked on the undergraduate Red Cross Committee, ran the launch on Lake Carnegie for rowing coach J. Duncan Spaeth, took his meals with a nonclub group who called themselves the Gargoyles, won election to Phi Beta Kappa, and graduated with high honors.

The following spring he left his job as bank clerk in Iowa and won a place, after much persistence, on Herbert Hoover's Commission for Relief in Belgium, thus beginning a lifelong friendship with Hoover. After spending 1917 and 1918 overseas with the A.E.F., he was again associated with Hoover, this time for three years as a member of the American Relief Administration in Poland, with special responsibility for feeding Polish children. In the Second World War, after seventeen years as salesman, importer, and investment banker, he returned to relief work, first as president of the Commission for Polish Relief, then with the American Red Cross as director of Relief to Prisoners of War.

At the end of the war Pate was once more called on by Hoover, in this case to assist him in filling a request by President Truman to help in ``the organization of measures to alleviate the postwar famine.'' Pate accompanied Hoover on a tour of stricken areas. On their return, Hoover's recommendations led to the establishment of the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) with Pate as Executive Director. (Later, when this organization was given permanent status, it was renamed the United Nations Children's Fund, but it retained its original acronym.)

Under Pate's leadership, UNICEF grew to be the United Nations's most famous and respected agency, a world-wide operation providing, during his administration, food and medical aid for upwards of a hundred million children. Many people helped: political leaders whose nations contributed funds, artists who designed UNICEF greeting cards, schoolchildren who collected money at Halloween. But it was Pate's personal integrity and selflessness that inspired all the others. Speaking of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjold said, ``The work of UNICEF is at the heart of the matter -- and at the heart of UNICEF is Maurice Pate.'' During the Hungarian uprising of 1956, when the government would admit no other U.N. official, Pate went to Budapest and, after walking the streets in a three-day survey, dispatched orders for the UNICEF aid he saw was needed. In 1960 he arrived in Leopoldville soon after the outbreak of the Congo crisis to provide badly needed food, having been summoned for this mission by Dag Hammarskjold, from a movie house, only three nights before. Introducing Pate at a UNICEF dinner, Herbert Hoover called him ``the most efficient human angel I have ever known.''

He was decorated by Belgium, Ecuador, France, The Netherlands, and Poland, and was honored -- closer to home -- by the award of the Class of 1915's Merit Cup in 1950 and Princeton's honorary degree of Doctor of Philanthropy in 1958. In 1960 the Norwegian Committee for UNICEF proposed his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. Declining this honor for himself, Pate suggested that UNICEF be nominated instead. This was done, and UNICEF received the prize in 1965, the year that Pate died.

At his funeral, the organist played ``He Shall Feed His Flock,'' from Handel's Messiah; U Thant said that ``the United Nations and the world's children'' were ``infinitely the richer for his long and devoted service''; the minister read the Parable of the Loaves and Fishes; and a children's choir sang the anthem ``Let All Things Now Living,'' to a traditional Welsh melody. The service closed with these words from the Bhagavad Gita, chosen by Mrs. Pate:

``One who does one's duties for the love of God, who considers God to be the Supreme Goal of life, who has no attachment, no personal ambition or self-interest, who has no inimical or bitter feelings against anyone in the whole world, will surely reach God.''

From Alexander Leitch, A Princeton Companion, copyright Princeton University Press (1978).

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