The Life of IRC Chairman Leo Cherne
|Leo Cherne, who died in New York on January 12, 1999, was the driving force behind the International Rescue Committee for 40 years. Under his direction, the IRC became, in the words of the New York Times, "the largest agency in the world for the relief and resettlement of refugees."|
|Leo Cherne visits an IRC clinic for Vietnamese refugee children in Cambodia in 1978.|
Mr. Cherne received many awards for his service to the nation, including the nation's highest civilian award, the United States Medal of Freedom, presented to him by President Reagan. A lawyer, economist and businessman, he was a noted sculptor as well. But above all else, he was a humanitarian. Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Laureate, in paying tribute to Leo Cherne, asked: "How many men and women owe their lives to Leo? He gave homes to the homeless and hope to the hopeless."
Mr. Cherne was a consultant to General Douglas MacArthur in Japan, served as chairman of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board and served as an advisor to nine presidents. He was inducted into the French Legion of Honor and received the Federal Republic of Germany's Commander's Cross. He was the first recipient of the Eisenhower Award for strengthening national security and was awarded the Gold Medal of Peace by the United Nations. Mr. Cherne was chairman of the board of directors of the IRC from 1951 to 1991.
Until just weeks before his death, he remained active as chairman emeritus. In praising his long-time friend, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York said: "I think it safe to say Leo Cherne's life helped to redeem the 20th century."
Leo Cherne's biography, Rescuing the World: The Life and Times of Leo Cherne, was published in September 2002.