Download Bio Ambassador Harriet Elam-Thomas
In September 2005, Ambassador Harriet L. Elam-Thomas retired from the U.S. Senior Foreign Service with the rank of career minister. During her four-decade Foreign Service career, she demonstrated a remarkable dedication to the practice of bridging cultures. With unique vision and insight, Ambassador Elam-Thomas placed a human face on diplomacy. Her varied overseas assignments have taken her to Greece, Turkey, France, Belgium, Senegal, Mali and Cote d’Ivoire. Domestic assignments included counselor (the most senior career position) and acting deputy director of the U.S. Information Agency (now a part of the Department of State), as well as serving as foreign service personnel in Washington, the United Nations and the White House. Ambassador Elam-Thomas fulfilled her commitment to serve the national interest through public diplomacy during her overseas tours in France, Senegal, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Greece, Turkey and Belgium. She returned to Africa to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Senegal from January 2000 to December 2002.
Her performance abroad brought unprecedented recognition from the prime minister of Turkey and cultural leaders in Greece, as well as meritorious and superior honor awards from the Department of State. Additionally, Ambassador Elam-Thomas has been the recipient of four honorary doctorates—from Simmons College in Boston, the American University in London, Suffolk University in Boston and the University of Central Florida in Orlando. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in international business from Simmons College in Boston and a Master of Science in public diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts University. She was a member of the Senior Advisory Group of the European Command and served three years on the board of the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra. Currently a member of the American Academy of Diplomacy, she was elected to the executive board of the Academy in October 2010. Elam-Thomas’s other board memberships include the Institute for International Education and the Cultural Academy for Excellence. In October 2010, she received the Onyx Global Award in Orlando, Florida. Two years after her retirement, she received the Director General’s Cup for the Foreign Service, an award presented to retired career diplomats who have made significant contributions to the advancement of U.S. foreign policy during their service to the nation. She speaks English, French, Greek and Turkish.
Formerly the Diplomat-in-Residence at the University of Central Florida, Ambassador Elam-Thomas directs a new diplomacy program at the university. Her memoir, “Diversifying Diplomacy,” was published in December 2017. Ambassador Elam-Thomas was born in Boston, Massachusetts. She and her husband, Wilfred J. Thomas, reside in Central Florida.