Our History

Throughout 2020, the International Relations Council is marking 65 years of growing a global perspective in the Kansas City community. While our programming and members have changed over the years, critical conversations around international affairs and global issues remain central to our mission and as important now as ever. Read on to learn more about our founder and past programs.

Eliot Berkley, IRC Founder and Champion

The International Relations Council was founded in late December 1954 by Eliot Berkley, who served as executive director of the IRC for nearly forty years and, later, as chairman of the IRC Academy and lifetime board member of the IRC. After graduating from Harvard University in 1947, Eliot earned an M.A. (1949) and Ph.D. (1952) from Princeton University. Returning to his hometown, Eliot taught history and government at the University of Kansas City, now UMKC. He then taught social science at the Kansas City Art Institute, where he later served as vice president for development from 1960 to 1961 and dean of the college from 1961 to 1965. For many years, his wife Marcia worked side by side with Eliot, hosting dinners and meetings in their home. Eliot passed away in 2012 but is still remembered fondly by business, community, and academic leaders for his inspirational passion for global issues.

A Prism of Perspectives

The IRC welcomed Eleanor Roosevelt as our first speaker in January 1955. Since then, a wide range of legislators, professors, journalists, diplomats, and other global-affairs experts have visited Kansas City to share their perspective and expertise. These notable guests include Henry Kissinger (1975), Jim Lehrer (1986), Robert J. Eaton (1993), Madeleine Albright (2006), Condoleezza Rice (2010), and Janet Napolitano (2014). We invite you to review our calendar of upcoming events to find which speakers will be joining us in Kansas City or online in the coming weeks and view our complete list of past speakers for a fuller sense of where the IRC has been.