US Ambassador Robert Orr to be honored at Talon Awards ceremony

The FAU alumnus will receive the Alumni Talon Award.


Benjamin Paley | Contributing Writer

Ben Paley, Contributing Writer


hen Robert Orr was about to graduate from Florida Atlantic, his grandfather placed a call to Federal Rep. Paul Rogers’ office. His grandfather was told that there were two job openings on Capitol Hill: a doorman or a mailroom attendant.

Orr decided to work as a doorman, and later held numerous posts in between in the private and public sector including serving as a professor of political science at Temple University Japan and vice president of the American Chamber of Commerce Japan. He eventually made his way to the position of U.S. ambassador under President Barack Obama to the Asian Development Bank.

Orr did all of this after graduating from FAU in 1976.

This year, he will receive the Alumni Talon Award for his service to the U.S. in the ambassadorial role that he has held since 2010.

The FAU Talon Awards have been an annual event since 1997 and, according to Amy Haycock of the FAU News Desk, the awards honor outstanding leaders from both inside and outside the FAU community.

The awards are presented in four categories: the President’s Talon Award, the Alumni Talon Award, the Student Talon Award and the Faculty Talon Award.

Recipients at the 2015 Talon Awards ceremony included retired school teacher and university donor Eleanor Baldwin, retired NASA Astronaut Steve Swanson, then-junior electrical engineering major Alyssa Harris and assistant professor in the Department of Music Stacie Lee Rossow.

Orr received his bachelor’s degree in history from FAU, a master’s degree in government from Georgetown University and a doctorate in political science from Tokyo University.

He worked as a congressional staffer, the president of Boeing Japan and vice president of Motorola’s European Affairs Division before being appointed by President Obama to serve as a U.S. Ambassador.

Despite his busy schedule, however, Orr said he always finds time to visit FAU.

“I love to come back and visit FAU as much as possible, especially the history department,” Orr said. “I have been fortunate throughout my life, but I had to start somewhere and I started at FAU.”

One thing he said he noticed that is different from when he attended the university is the increased number of FAU branded T-shirts.

“Every other person is wearing an FAU shirt,” Orr said. “When I was a student at FAU, there were no shirts. The only people that had shirts were members of sports teams, and each team had a different FAU symbol.”

According to Brittany Sullivan, the Media Relations manager for University Initiatives, Orr will give a brief acceptance speech at the Talon Awards Ceremony on Oct. 27 and will also speak the day before at 4 p.m. in the College of Arts and Letters’ University Theatre.

The lecture, titled, “The Evolution of a U.S. Ambassador: Policy and Perspective in a Global Age,” is part of the John O’Sullivan lecture series presented by the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters.

“Ambassador [Orr] has remained very close to the History Department here at FAU and has returned to the campus whenever his schedule permits,” Sullivan said in an email. “He has remained in close contact with faculty members and has interacted with students whenever possible.”

Tickets for Orr’s speech on Oct. 26 can be purchased at the FAU Box Office in the Student Union. The cost is $10 for faculty, staff and alumni and $5 for students.

FAU will hold its annual Talon Awards Ceremony on Oct. 27 at 6:30 p.m. in Room 131 of the Recreation and Fitness Center. The Talon Awards ceremony is co-sponsored by the FAU Alumni Association and Student Government.

Benjamin Paley is a contributing writer with the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @benpaley92.