John Cole Cool, who passed away on April 6, 2017, was born in 1936 Ohio, the son of Mary Louise (nee Cole) a high school teacher and social worker and William Leslie Irvin Cool an engineer. He was raised in the small steel town of Beaver in western Pennsylvania.
Cool was an American diplomat, anthropologist, international development agent, philanthropist, and a naval officer, with a career spanning 55 years, 4 continents, 10 countries and had a meaningful positive impact on a great swath of the world’s population. He served in the U.S. Navy at the end of WW II, the Department of the Interior in Samoa, the State Department (USAID) in Laos, Nepal, and India, the Ford Foundation in India, Pakistan and the Philippines, the Agricultural Development Council and Winrock International in Nepal and Thailand and the Aga Khan Foundation in Pakistan.
Early in 1961, John accepted an assignment in the Kingdom of Nepal as USOM’s (soon to become USAID) Chief of Village Development. In this role, he was deeply committed to building participatory development by combining democratic institutions with the traditional Nepali Panchayat system of governance. He worked at the national level with His Majesty’s Government to plan and establish a broad program of self-help development through more than 3700 elected village councils (panchayats) and 75 district councils. While doing this, he also managed the U.S. assistance program in agriculture, forestry, health and population in Nepal and he took a strong interest in and mentored the very first Peace Corps Volunteers in Nepal, guiding their training in cross-cultural understanding and befriending them. Many remained close friends throughout his lifetime.
In 1964, John was appointed Deputy Director of the USAID Mission to Nepal and from 1965 until 1967 he was de facto responsible for overall management of the USAID program. His impact and legacy in Nepal is measurable and felt to this day.
In 1968, John accepted an assignment as the Assistant Director for the USAID Mission to India. Based in New Delhi, he was responsible for U.S. assistance to the Government of India in Population, Labor and Area Development programs. He worked closely with state and national officials to plan and finance rural works and area development activities, introduce spatial planning concepts and settlement strategies, develop infrastructure investment strategies designed to shape settlement patterns and promote human scale urban growth.
In 1970, John left USAID to some degree due to the increasingly political pressures the Nixon administration was introducing into U.S. foreign aid programs worldwide. The Ford Foundation offered him a job immediately and asked him to stay in India where he had built deep respect and friendships within key networks of Indian officials as well as at USAID and at NGOs.
John Cole Cool outlived many of his contemporaries, but his loss is deeply felt by a worldwide network of colleagues and friends in international development whom he inspired and mentored.
He is survived and deeply mourned by Catharine, his wife of 65 years and loving, devoted partner throughout all his overseas assignments and adventures, by his son Jonathan and daughter-in-law Erika, of Great Falls, VA, by his daughter, Jennifer, son, Christopher, daughter-in-law Marita, and grandchildren Kaitlyn and Cameron, of Los Angeles, CA.