Salzburg Global Staff and Fellows Share Memories of Sir Michael Palliser

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Jun 20, 2012
by Louise Hallman
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Salzburg Global Staff and Fellows Share Memories of Sir Michael Palliser

Former British diplomat and Salzburg Global Director and Vice Chairman passed away in June 2012 President Stephen Salyer and Board Member Walter Massey present the Salzburg Cup to The Rt. Hon. Sir Michael Palliser (middle), GCMG, vice-chair of Salzburg Global Seminar's Board of Directors, at the Board of Directors Weekend in 2008.

Fellows, supporters, donors and board members came together on Sunday, June 24, 2012 to remember the long-serving Salzburg Global Seminar faculty member, Fellow, director and vice chairman of the board, Sir Michael Palliser who passed away at the age of 90 on June 19, 2012.

Sir Michael served on Salzburg Global’s Board of Directors for 16 years, 13 of which as Vice Chair of the Board. In 2008, he was awarded the Salzburg Cup—the highest honor given to Salzburg Global staff and supporters. He later served as the co-chair of the Salzburg Global Fellowship, alongside Herb Gleason.

Sir Michael’s involvement with Salzburg Global dates back to the fall of 1982 when, as a fellow at Harvard University’s Center for International Affairs, he met the leadership of the then-Salzburg Seminar in American Studies, at the time based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In addition to serving on the Board, Sir Michael proved himself to be an active, engaged supporter of the session program in Salzburg, attending over 25 sessions; he served as faculty at fifteen sessions, seven of which as chair, as well as a resource specialist at a further three sessions.

Sir Michael was also a founding trustee and board member of the 21st Century Trust, the Fellowship of which joined Salzburg Global Seminar alumni in 2009 to create the Salzburg Global Fellowship. Described as a “committed European” by 21st Century Trust Director, John Lotherington, Sir Michael long supported the vision of an international community of emerging and established leaders to maintain the exchange of ideas in tackling global problems – a starting principle of the Trust. A talented linguist, he was reportedly the only Englishman ever to be complemented on his French by former French President, General Charles de Gaulle.

After serving in the Coldstream Guards during World War II, Sir Michael Palliser joined the British Diplomatic Service in 1947. His extraordinary career in the included stints at home and abroad as Head of the Policy Planning Staff, a Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, Minister at the British Embassy in Paris, Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the European Communities, and Permanent Undersecretary of State and Head of the Diplomatic Service, to name a few. He came out of formal retirement from April to July 1982, during the Falklands War, to act as special adviser in the Cabinet Office to then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.

In addition to his distinguished diplomatic career, Sir Michael also served as the chairman of the London investment bank Samuel Montagu and Co. Ltd. He was president of the China-Britain Trade Group, deputy chairman of British Invisibles, a director of the UK-Japan 2000 Group, and a member of the Trilateral Commission.

“It is with great sadness that we hear of Sir Michael’s passing,” said Stephen Salyer, Salzburg Global Seminar President and Chief Executive Officer.

“He was a truly remarkable public servant, one of the last great gentlemen, and a man devoted to the Seminar. He always drew generously on his connections in government, diplomacy and the private sector to serve the Seminar cause. We had hoped to see him at our board meeting this weekend; he will be sorely missed, but we shall now hold our meeting and the accompanying session in his memory. He will be remembered and celebrated at the Seminar for the remarkable contributions he made and for the wonderful man he was. Our most sincere condolences go to his three sons.”

“Michael was the finest sort of diplomat. He saw whatever was good in states and in people that could be made better by bringing them together,” said Lotherington, who also now works with the Salzburg Global Seminar.

“As a young man he fought in World War II and then on through his career, with great finesse and determination, helped nurture European peace and unity; he understood its fundamental importance more than the bond markets at present allow. In the same spirit of reinforcing crucial links across borders, he later brought his tact and wisdom to the Board of the Seminar and of its London counterpart the 21st Century Trust, and he took enormous pleasure from them coming together in a successful partnership just over three years ago. When he retired, he took on an honorary position with the Salzburg Global Fellowship; he will remain one of its leading sources of inspiration.”

Following the annual June Board Weekend, which was held in Sir Michael’s honor, participants joined together in the Great Hall of Schloss Leopoldskron to share their memories.

Speaking first, fellow co-chair of the Salzburg Global Seminar Fellowship, Herb Gleason said saying goodbye was “too sad by far”, and called Sir Michael the “most useful friend the Seminar ever had.”

Heather Haaga, Chair of the Salzburg Global Seminar called Sir Michael her mentor and spoke of his great ability to make people feel “lighter”.

Sir Brian Crowe, Salzburg Global faculty member, director general for external relations at the Council of the European Union (General Secretariat), and who had worked with Sir Michael since the 1975 UK-EEC membership crisis, told of how Sir Michael had changed his life by hiring him.

Baroness Usha Prashar also spoke during the informal service, sharing her memories of dining with Sir Michael in the legendary Buck’s Club in London, home of the Buck’s Fizz cocktail and inspiration for P.G. Wodehouse’s Drones Club.

As both a member of the program staff at Salzburg Global Seminar and Director of the 21st Century Trust – the Fellowship program of which was merged with Salzburg Global in 2009 and on both of which boards Sir Michael served for many years – John Lotherington echoed many people’s sentiments when he said: “It was an absolute privilege to have known Sir Michael Palliser.”

Sir Michael is survived by his three sons, Anthony, Peter and Nicholas. His wife, Marie Marguerite, was the daughter of one of the co-founders of the European Union, Paul-Henri Spaak; she passed away in 2000.