Former Ambassador Leads U.S. Aid Effort in Haiti
He knew the country well, knew already
Lewis Lucke ’ 73 thought he had retired
how to get around Port-au-Prince. As USAID
mission director there, he had made a lot of
friends, Americans working there and Haitians,
such as the owner of the Hotel Montana in
Port-au-Prince, where he had stayed in
Now the Montana was pancaked flat, and
the call Lucke must have expected came
quickly. The day after the earthquake, he was
in Washington, and the next day he was the
U.S. unified relief coordinator — the point
person for recovery and the start of recon-
struction. His e-mail finally reached Williams
in India, the first Williams had heard of the
quake, and he, too, rushed to Haiti.
A veteran of 23 years in the foreign service
with eight stops around the world when he
left the beleaguered Caribbean country in
2001, he was far from finished. Lucke was one
of the first American civilians in Baghdad after
the U.S. invaded; he set up the U.S. Agency for
International Development mission there and
directed a $4 billion reconstruction and economic development program. He accepted the
call to be ambassador to Swaziland in 2004.
That’s where he was when he heard from
an old friend, J.L. Williams, who had started an
interracial Christian musical ministry in 1969.
Over the years Lucke and Williams had
worked in many of the same countries —
Lucke with USAID and Williams with his
growing ministry — but they’d been ships
passing in the night.
In October at Lucke’s high school reunion in
Burlington, he and Williams talked about their
common interest in Haiti, and Williams invited
Lucke to meet him there in December. They
each gathered their old compatriots for dinner.
Williams showed Lucke a large agricultural
project and a hospital run by the humanitarian
ministry Double Harvest, with which his
organization had partnered. They parted in the
Miami airport — Lucke off to Iraq and
Williams to Bhutan.
Lewis Lucke ’ 73, right, talks with USAID administrator Raj Shah during Lucke’s visit to Petit Goave outside Port-au-Prince on
Feb. 13. In the background are Haitians hired by USAID to help remove rubble under a jobs-creation program focused on
recovery from the earthquake.
When the earthquake hit on Jan. 12, Joy
Lucke knew immediately that there would be
no keeping her husband out of this one.
“It looked pretty good for Haiti,” Lucke
recalled from the December visit. “It was a
very hopeful time, and the government
seemed somewhat stable.” The earthquake, he
said, “blew everything completely asunder. So
much is gonna have to start over again.”
The Rev. Samuel Williams Dixon Jr. ’ 71, in
Port-au-Prince working for a United Methodist
Church aid organization, died in the Montana
Hotel collapse. Story, page 85.
Alumnus Killed in Haiti Quake
On Jan. 28, amid an unrelenting stream of
grim news from Haiti, Lucke sounded as if his
glass were half full. He said that USAID was
coordinating the work of all U.S. agencies,
including at that time the military, and that it
already was making a transition from relief to
“We’re seeing a lot of progress,” he said.
“We’re starting to see a lot of progress. This is a
catastrophe of biblical proportions.” Food and
water shortages had been largely resolved,
though the mobilization to get supplies where
they needed to go was still a big problem. The
previous day he had been trying to get plastic
sheeting distributed for a makeshift shelter. On
this day, the challenge was health and sanitation with a critical shortage of medical supplies. He had met with Haiti’s president, and