Diplomat Jean François-Poncet ’47, Hon. ’81 Dies July 18

Jean François-Poncet ’47 received an honorary degree from Wesleyan in 1981.

Jean François-Poncet ’47, Hon. ’81, French diplomat, businessman, senator and Secretary General, died July 18, 2012.

Wesleyan celebrated his achievements at the 1980 Wesleyan Commencement ceremonies, where François-Poncet delivered the commencement address and received an honorary degree. In 1981, he returned to campus to deliver the keynote address for Wesleyan’s 150th anniversary.

An obituary in Le Monde noted that he was the son of an ambassador, André François-Poncet, who served as French ambassador to Germany from 1930–38, and observed that the younger François-Poncet had quickly made a name for himself in the 1950s as a brilliant young diplomat. In that era, he was working with the government minister Maurice Faure in the negotiation of the Treaty of Rome, which created in 1957 the European Economic Community.  Jean François-Poncet continued in the diplomatic service under the Gaullist government, serving in Morocco and Iran. He interrupted his diplomatic career in 1971 to serve as CEO of Carnaud SA, a metal packaging business belonging to the Wendel family, to which he was connected through his wife, Marie-Therese de Mitry.

With the election of President Giscard d’Estaing in 1974, François-Poncet returned to government service as Secretary of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. From 1976 to 1978  he served as Secretary General in the office of the President, a key post in French politics, and in 1978 he was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs, a position he held until 1981.

Elected Senator from the Department of Lot-et-Garonne in 1983, he served in the Senate until 2010, chairing the Economic Affairs Committee of the Senate until 2001 and serving as Vice-President of the Foreign Relations and Defense Committee. He led Senate delegations in Eastern Europe, South-East Asia, China, Central Asia, Afghanistan and Middle Eastern countries.

(Translation from Le Monde by Elizabeth Miel).