The U.S. Institute of Peace mourns the passing of John “Jack” Dunfey, a longtime peace activist and businessman. As a member of the bipartisan Matsunaga Commission, Dunfey helped pave the way for the founding of USIP in 1984.

“Jack used his gifts to make the world a more peaceful and just place,” said USIP President and CEO Nancy Lindborg. “It’s thanks to people like him that USIP exists, and for that, we as an Institute are forever grateful.”

Born in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1924, Dunfey served in the Air Force during World War II and eventually took over the family hotel business. In addition to his business acumen, Dunfey made a lasting impact as an adamant proponent of peace and social justice.

Often quoted as saying, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give,” Dunfey led numerous human rights missions around the world. His meetings with Cuban leader Fidel Castro led to the release of 87 prisoners, the removal of landmines in Angola, and  freeing up of food supplies to enter Ethiopia. Dunfey was also a founding board member of the American Ireland Funds, which sought to foster community dialogue during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Through his peacebuilding work, Dunfey garnered the respect of colleagues on both sides of the political aisle. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan appointed Dunfey to a nine-person bipartisan commission, led by Senator Spark Matsunaga of Hawaii, to create a peace academy in the United States to train Americans on conflict resolution.

The commission’s work led to the establishment of USIP in 1984. Over three decades later, the Institute remains a testament to Americans, like Jack Dunfey, who have always remained steadfast in their commitment to peace and justice. 

USIP sends our condolences to his family. As an Institute, we owe immense gratitude for the role that Dunfey played in our founding and we will strive to continue his peacebuilding legacy.

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