Randy Berry, an alumnus of Bethany College in Lindsborg, was recently nominated by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the Senate as the U.S. ambassador to Nepal.
"The values that have enabled my professional success were those built into the foundation at Bethany," Berry said. "The honor and pride in which Lindsborg and Bethany celebrated its cultural roots as a Swedish immigrant community also sharply impacted my understanding of myriad identities, and honoring differences and traditions."
Early on in his time at Bethany College, Berry realized he needed to shift his focus from sports to more scholastic pursuits.
"Coming from a small rural school district in Colorado, I also mistakenly thought I had a career ahead of me as a track and field athlete," Berry said. "Luckily, I discovered my potential in academics was much stronger than my mediocre athletic ability, and found an excellent environment at Bethany in which to learn, grow and be consistently challenged."
Berry said he chose to attend Bethany College because of its reputation for student-focused learning, low student-to-professor ratios, the chance to participate in a broad range of college activities and the welcoming, tight-knit community offered by Lindsborg.
"A budding interest in history and political science really bloomed once I met and interacted with both faculty and students interested in the same fields," Berry said.
Bethany College professor Dr. Joyce Pigge was Berry's major advisor during his college career.
"Dr. Pigge was more influential in fostering my own academic growth and intellectual curiosity than any other person in my life," Berry said.
Pigge kept in touch with Berry after his graduation and attended his swearing-in ceremony in October.
"What was most striking, as I recall, was that she not only introduced new concepts and philosophies to me, but always established clear linkages to our modern world, how governance works and how theory supported the building blocks of democracy," Berry said. "She was also one of the first mentors/professors I met who was not hesitant to encourage greater effort, deeper thought and to challenge me when my performance fell short of potential. That’s the hallmark of an educator, and I’ve been deeply indebted to Dr. Pigge for the interest, dedication and frankness that she always brought to her classes and interventions."
The education, environment, mentors and friends Berry found at Bethany College taught him values such as compassionate leadership, service to others, respect for differences and the worth of the individual.
"The environment at Bethany and the broader community in Lindsborg allowed me to form meaningful, enduring friendships," Berry said. "My dearest and oldest friend to this day is a classmate I met on my very first day at Bethany in 1983; she and I also joined different departments in the federal service in Washington about the same time."
Berry was motivated to seek a career in government due to its service-oriented focus.
Following his sophomore year at Bethany College, Berry was selected as a Lyndon Baines Johnson Congressional Intern, and spent the summer of 1985 working in the Washington, D.C., offices of
Congressman Mike Strang, who represented his home district at the time.
"I was fascinated by the potentials and possibilities, and the greater good, of service to our country. I took every opportunity that summer to experience and learn as much about Congress and the operations of the federal government as I could," Berry said. "As an intern, I had the chance to sit in the House of Representatives gallery to listen to a speech to a Joint Session of the U.S. Congress by then-Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Given my natural interest in foreign affairs, this ignited my passion for the career of diplomacy, and entering the United States Foreign Service seemed like the perfect career for me."
After 26 years as a diplomat, nine overseas assignments and the opportunity to represent the U.S. in Asia, Europe, Africa, and the South Pacific, Berry said he feels he chose the perfect career.
"I’m honored to be the latest U.S. Ambassador in Kathmandu – the most recent in a line of women and men who have represented the U.S. here for more than 70 years," Berry said. "I had the honor of living and serving in Kathmandu earlier in my career, from 2007 to 2010, as the Deputy Chief of Mission of our Embassy here, so it’s a return to familiar territory for me."
Nepalese culture may differ from American culture, but there are also parallels that can be found.
"In the most important ways, I see great similarities between the two," Berry said "Both countries and cultures are built upon the foundations of diverse peoples, languages and faiths. As much as America’s culture has been built by the contributions of the many cultures whose people immigrated in search of new opportunities and its indigenous ones, Nepal’s multicultural environment is the product of its ancient role as a crossroads of civilizations and faiths from the South and Central Asian region, where coexistence and the mingling of cultures has gone on for millennia."
Now, as the U.S. ambassador to Nepal, Berry handles a variety of tasks.
"First and foremost, I have the honor and the responsibility of leading our team of professional American and Nepali staff at the U.S. Mission in Kathmandu, and of ensuring their security," Berry said. "I work directly with the government of Nepal and its political leadership to pursue America’s interests in this Himalayan state. I engage directly with everyday Nepalis of all walks of life to deepen my own understanding of Nepali political, economic, and cultural life, and tell America’s story at the same time."
Berry and other personnel at the U.S. Mission in Nepal work to support the country’s stability and democratic institutions and practices, as well as deepening its trading relationship and maintaining historically friendly and close diplomatic relations with the United States.
"I expect to continue the work of my predecessors in maintaining a close and partnership-oriented relationship with the government of Nepal," Berry said. "America’s national security interests are best served by a Nepal that is stable and democratic, economically prosperous and integrated in the regional and global economy and capable of exercising its sovereignty and independence to the fullest and I hope to see progress on a number of key joint initiatives to further those goals."
Berry also said he hopes to deepen mutual understanding between the countries and bring a little of America — and Kansas — to the heart of Kathmandu.