Coombs, Philip H. 1915–2006

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Coombs, Philip H. 1915–2006

(Philip Hall Coombs)

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born August 15, 1915, in Holyoke, MA; died February 15, 2006, in Chester, CT. Government official, diplomat, educator, and author. Coombs was the founding director of the U.S. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and later served as vice chair and chair of the International Council of Economic Development. A graduate of Amherst College, where he earned a B.A. in 1937, he also attended graduate courses at the University of Chicago and the Brookings Institution. He taught economics at Williams College after leaving school, and later joined the U.S. Office of Price Administration, again as an economist, just before World War II. During the war, he served in the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA. After returning to academia as a professor of economics at Amherst College from 1947 to 1949, he became executive director of the President's Materials Policy Commission, also known as the Paley Commission, in Washington, DC. Coombs became more and more interested over the years in the importance of educa-tion and its relation to foreign affairs and world economies. After working as director of research and education for the Ford Foundation's Fund for the Advancement of Education, Coombs was appointed assistant secretary of state for international educational and cultural affairs. In this role, Coombs worked with the U.S. Department of State and embassies around the world to educate them about other cultures; such work, he felt, would forge better understanding between nations. Next, from 1963 to 1968, he worked in Paris, where he helped organize the International Institute for Educational Planning. Here he was director and, from 1969 to 1970, director of research. Coombs's last move was to become vice chair, and then chair, of the International Council of Economic Development, with which he was associated from 1970 until 1992, when he retired. In this last role, Coombs's focus was on improving education in rural and poor communities around the globe. Also serving as a consultant to countries such as Spain, India, and Turkey, and as a lecturer and visiting professor, Coombs strove all his life to improve the education of all people in the world. He was the author of many books on education and related subjects, as well, including Education and Foreign Aid (1965), Attacking Rural Poverty: How Nonformal Education Can Help (1974), and The World Crisis in Education: The View from the Eighties (1985); he also edited such texts as A Strategy to Improve the Quality of Mexican Higher Education (1992) and A Productive Future for the Benemerita Universidad Autonoma de Puebla (1994).



New York Times, March 7, 2006, p. A23.

Washington Post, March 10, 2006, p. B7.