By PATRICIA ZAPOR, Catholic News Service | Published January 9, 2014
WASHINGTON (CNS)—Former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Thomas P. Melady, who served in several diplomatic posts and continued to play a role as “citizen-scholar” long past the age when most people would have retired, died Jan. 6. He was 86.
Melady died at his Washington home of a brain tumor, which doctors only recently diagnosed.
Melady was an ambassador under three presidents: to Burundi (1969) and Uganda (1972) under President Richard Nixon, and then as the ambassador to the Holy See under President George H.W. Bush (1989) and in the first year of the administration of President Bill Clinton. Melady left the post in early 1993. He also was named by Nixon as senior adviser to the U.S. delegation to the U.N. General Assembly.
In addition to his ambassadorial posts, Melady was a prolific writer, with 17 books, including “Profiles of African Leaders, Idi Amin Dada: Hitler in Africa,” “The Ambassador’s Story” and “Ten African Heroes,” and more than 180 articles to his credit. He most recently had been senior diplomat in residence and a professor at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, teaching a course on the art of diplomacy; mentoring students and helping develop the institute’s policy and philanthropic circles, said a post on the organization’s website.
Besides his expertise in diplomacy and politics, Melady wrote and taught on Afro-Asian and Central European issues.
The institute post observed that Melady’s service at the Vatican came at a pivotal point, when the Soviet Union was collapsing and Pope John Paul II was playing a role in reshaping Eastern Europe.
“He was such a great soul,” said Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute on Policy Research and Catholic Studies at The Catholic University of America, who counted Melady as a friend.
“In Washington he was about the only person I know who could truly and easily speak to people on both sides of the (political) aisle,” Schneck told CNS. “And he was a great friend to the church.”
“To a whole generation of us he was a mentor and exceedingly generous,” Schneck added. “He would take people like me under his wing and talk about things like the realities of government service. The same with education. He would often work with young scholars and try to prepare them for their work in education.”
In 2010, the university’s institute awarded Melady the Bishop John Joseph Keane Medallion for lifetime service to church, country and academia. A statement from Schneck called Melady “a brilliant scholar, a renowned diplomat, a distinguished educator, a compassionate Catholic leader, a generous confidant to bishops and presidents, professors and politicians.”
Melady was born March 4, 1927, in Norwich, Conn., and served in the U.S. Army at the close of World War II. He earned degrees from Duquesne University and The Catholic University of America and taught at St. John’s University. As an early proponent of African studies, he served from 1959 to 1967 as the president of the Africa Service Institute, which brought leaders of newly independent African nations to the United States. He was an adjunct professor at Fordham University from 1966 to 1969, when he began his diplomatic service.
He later went on to serve as chairman of Seton Hall University and as a consultant to the National Urban League. After his diplomatic service, he taught at George Washington University and was president of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., from 1976 to 1986.
Melady is survived by his wife of 52 years, Margaret, with whom he co-wrote several books; daughters Christina Melady and Monica Melady Micklos; and seven grandchildren.
Among his many honors and awards, he was a Knight of Malta and recipient of the Grand Cross of the Order of Malta; was a recipient of the Order of Pius IX and the Order of St. Gregory the Great. He was the recipient of 30 honorary doctorates and was honored by the leaders of Senegal, Liberia, Cameroon, Madagascar and Croatia.
A funeral Mass with Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl presiding was scheduled for Jan. 13 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington. Sacred Heart University scheduled a memorial Mass for the following day.