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Monday, April 15, 2013

Tribute: A Hero Remembered, J. Christopher Stevens '89

Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens ’89, killed in the line of duty last fall, was exemplary in his unwavering dedication to his country.

On September 11, 2012, the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens ’89 and three other individuals were killed; 10 more were wounded. In the wake of this tragic event, UC Hastings remembers Stevens’s inspiring legacy of diplomatic accomplishments. He died, said UC Hastings Chancellor & Dean Frank H. Wu, “performing the highest role that a lawyer is called upon to perform: public service.”

CALLED TO SERVICE
Born in 1960 in Grass Valley, California, Stevens studied history at UC Berkeley and then spent several years in Morocco with the Peace Corps. Upon returning to the United States, he enrolled at UC Hastings, where he served as managing editor of the Hastings Law Journal.

Stevens made an indelible impression on both faculty and classmates. He became particularly close with this civil procedure professor, David Levine, who recalls Stevens as a natural fit for a career in diplomacy. “Some people catch your eye, and Chris was one of those people,” says Levine. “He always went above and beyond.”

After graduating in 1989, Stevens moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked as an international trade lawyer. In 1991 he joined the Foreign Service and never looked back. He was posted as an officer to U.S. consulates in Jerusalem, Damascus, Cairo, and Riyadh and had served in Libya twice prior to his arrival as ambassador in 2012: first as deputy chief of mission from 2007 to 2009 and later as special representative to the Libyan Transitional National Council in 2011.

Colleagues remember Stevens as tirelessly committed to public service. “Christopher Stevens stood out as an extraordinary in an already extraordinary group of people,” said former Secretary of State George P. Shultz at a memorial service for Stevens in San Francisco. “Democracy is not a spectator sport, and Chris was a full participant in his beloved democracy.”

Stevens won over his classmates with warmth and modesty. “Chris never tried to be someone special,” says classmate Mary Neumayr ’89, “but he was special. People were drawn to him. Friend and classmate Chris Hillen ’89 remarks, “Chris was the finest among us. More than his obvious brains and charm, he was a man of substance and humility.” And classmate Rachel Van Cleave ’89, currently the dean of Golden Gate Law School, reminisces, “Chris was a generous and warm person who was truly open to anyone. It was impossible not to like him. His priorities, goals, and objectives weren’t about Chris; they were about his family and friends, and his country and the global community.”

MOURNING A FALLEN HERO
Two months after his death, Stevens was honored with the Common Ground award for conflict resolution, negotiation, and peace building. “Our country mourns a fallen hero,” said then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who presented Stevens’s award to his sister, Anne Stevens. Stevens “understood that there is no substitute for going beyond the embassy walls, building relationships and finding common ground,” Clinton added. “Our diplomats cannot work in bunkers and do their jobs. We must accept a level of risk to protect this country we love and to advance our interests and values around the world.”

For Stevens, this dedication to his country always came first and foremost. “He was doing what he loved,” says Professor Levine. “Everything he did was for the United States.”

THE AMBASSADOR J. CHRISTOPHER STEVENS SYMPOSIUM FUND
In collaboration with his family, UC Hastings has established a symposium fund to honor Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. The symposium will take place Nov. 8, 2013, and will address law and public policy as mechanisms to advance global understanding and peace—the issues to which the ambassador devoted his career.

“Gathering experts to discuss law and foreign policy as it relates to legal practice in the promotion of global understanding presents a fitting opportunity to further the legacy of Chris’s style of diplomacy and his life’s work,” says Tom Stevens, Ambassador Stevens’s brother. “Chris loved UC Hastings, and we are grateful to the school for holding this event.”

For more information about making a gift in memory of Ambassador Stevens or to support the symposium fund, please contact Laura Jackson at jacksonl@uchastings.edu or 415.565.4621.

Read more UC Hastings Magazine here.

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