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.

IRC Past Presidents

A remarkable, committed line of board presidents has contributed enormously to the longevity and vibrancy of the International Relations Council through the years. We value the continued involvement of many long past their term of service.

2020Jeffrey Bell
1987Robert Cushman
2019Jeffrey Bell1986Robert Cushman
2018Lyn Lakin1985James Lanoue
2017Lyn Lakin1984James Lanoue
2016Bob Rebori1983David Knuti
2015Brad Kleindl1982David Knuti
2014Mithra Amaran1981Ross Lillard
2013Chad Bettes1980Ross Lillard
2012Joy Stevenson1979Mike Wood
2011John Watson1978Mike Wood
2010Erik Bergrud1977Mike Wood
2009Gary Armstrong1976Virginia Calkins
2008Paul Savastano1975William Linscott
2007Dianne Hofner Saphiere
1974William Linscott
2006Joseph Melookaran
1973James E. Kelly
2005Keith Alm
1972James E. Kelly
2004Keith Alm
1971James E. Kelly
2003William Eckhardt
1970David Hawley
2002William Eckhardt
1969Anthony Nugent, Jr.
2001Carolyn Kadel
1968Anthony Nugent, Jr.
2000Roger Hiatt
1967Moulton Green, Jr.
1999Roger Hiatt
1966Moulton Green, Jr.
1998Kathie Allison
1965 
1997Janet Kannard
1964Richard Ong, Walter La Brunerie
1996Janet Kannard
1963Robert Steinbach, Richard Ong
1995Janet Kannard
1962Robert Steinbach
1994Mel Adam
1961 
1993Mel Adam
1960Charles A. Dailey
1992Rick Poccia
1959Eugene T. Detmer
1991Rick Poccia
1958Eugene T. Detmer
1990Rick Poccia
1957 
1989Robert Cushman
1956 
1988Robert Cushman
1955James D. McBride