I have had a close connection to the Reves Center since 2003 when I created the James H. Critchfield Memorial Endowment for Middle East Studies. Both my husband James and I had many years of government service in the Middle East. The Endowment is unusual in that it is made up of donations from more than 76 individual donors, including family, friends and corporations. Over the years, I have raised more than $700,000 and my goal is to see it reach $1 million. The Reves Center administers the endowment, which provides not only scholarships for study abroad in the Middle East but also supports a wide range of activities taking place on campus and in the greater Washington area. I work closely with the Middle East faculty on these programs and have been an active member of the Reves Advisory Council in its focus on internationalization.
2011 was the best year yet for the Critchfield Endowment. And none too soon, as the Arab Spring catapulted to center stage in the Middle East marking probably the most significant global event to take place since the fall of the Soviet Union. William & Mary students have become even more interested in the dynamics of change and the Critchfield Endowment provided many opportunities for them to engage. Since 2004, the Critchfield Endowment has provided scholarships for 48 students who studied in Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Yemen, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman. I make it a point to get to know these students personally. They and faculty are frequent guests in my home in Governors Land.
W&M students, with support from the Endowment, also attended two important Washington conferences in October and November of this year; those hosted by the National Council on US-Arab Relations and the Middle East Institute. These events give students valuable insights into the politics of the region as seen from Washington. They also have the opportunity to rub shoulders with ambassadors and Middle East experts.
The highlight of the year was when the Oman Minister of Higher Education and her delegation travelled from Oman to Williamsburg to sign an agreement establishing a Sultan Qaboos Professorship for Middle East Studies. I worked on this project for two plus years. This comes at a time when the Asian Middle East Studies (AMES) program is getting underway and the new position will undoubtedly become an anchor for AMES.
All this confirms what the Critchfield Endowment set out to achieve. In the words of my husband, “My education was the dominant influence in shaping my life preparing me well for the diverse challenges that have taken me to the far corners of the world.” That statement is what inspires me to continue my association with the Reves Center and faculty in support of the new Asian Middle East program.
Lois Critchfield is a member of the Reves Center Advisory Council, and was a member of the Reves Steering Committee from 2005-2009. She retired from the Central Intelligence Agency in 1982 after 28 years’ service. In 2005, she was the recipient of the W&M Lord Botetourt Award and in 2006 became a William & Mary Honorary Alumna. She also serves on the Board of Governors of the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C.