Inspired by John F. Kennedy's call to service, Gerry began his development career in 1965 with Peace Corps Sierra Leone, assigned to Makeni as a rural development volunteer. In 1967 he met and married fellow volunteer Barbara Warren and they extended for a third year of service. The couple returned to Chicago in 1968, where Gerry became a stock broker with Dean Witter & Co. However, the pull of Africa proved stronger than that of the trading floor, and, in the mid-1970s he and Barbara enrolled at Indiana University to pursue doctoral degrees in African studies. After graduate courses at IU they were awarded research grants to study and work in Mali. Splitting time between a mud hut in the village of Kabaya and a tiny apartment in Bamako, Gerry quickly absorbed Malian culture and languages. His unique knowledge and understanding of rural life garnered USAID/Mali's attention. He so impressed Mission staff with a social soundness analysis that he was immediately hired on contract as the Mission anthropologist.
Gerry loved traveling to the bush and connecting with people, bringing back to USAID insights into development issues, significantly improving project designs. In 1985, his expertise led to a direct hire position as a project development officer and social science analyst in the Bureau for Africa.
Gerry subsequently served as a project development officer with USAID/Nigeria, then with the USAID Regional Development Office for the Caribbean in Bridgetown, Barbados. He returned to Washington as desk officer for Madagascar, followed by supervisory project development officer in the Africa Bureau's Development Planning Office. In 1995, Gerry and family returned overseas to Rabat, Morocco, where he headed USAID's Project Development Office. In 1999, he was assigned to the Regional USAID Office (REDSO/ESA) in Nairobi, Kenya, where he directed the Non-Presence Country Program, leading the design and implementation of complex transition programs for southern Sudan, Somalia, and Burundi.
In 2001, Gerry was tapped as Deputy Regional Director for REDSO/ESA, leading to his promotion to Counselor in the Senior Foreign Service in 2003. He was then assigned to Gaborone, Botswana as Mission Director for USAID's Regional Center for Southern Africa (RCSA). He headed that office until 2006, reaching mandatory retirement age. Despite a diagnosis of chronic leukemia in that year, Gerry continued to serve the Agency under temporary appointments in 2007 and 2008, as Mission Director in USAID/East Timor and USAID/Madagascar, respectively.
Gerry was a colorful, joyful, larger-than-life personality. He had an uncanny gift for memorizing everyone's names, remembering them even months after a first meeting. "There's nothing sweeter than hearing your own name on the lips of another person," he'd say. He was generous in spirit and loved entertaining friends and family, holding court at the head of a perfectly-set table, laughing, throwing out thought-provoking questions and telling stories.
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