The Pacific Council 1995-2020: A Retrospective

This year, the Pacific Council is celebrating its 25th anniversary. As we look forward to the impact our work will have in the coming years, we present here a look back at some of the significant moments of our history. What are your favorite memories with the Pacific Council over the years? Share them with us on Twitter @PacCouncil.


  • The Pacific Council’s articles of incorporation were adopted by the new Board of Directors (formerly the Steering Committee) at its first meeting on April 6, 1995, at the LA Times headquarters. The articles were received by the state secretary on May 26, 1995, and approved May 30. The Council’s inaugural retreat was held at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Marina del Rey in May 1995.
  • The Board made the decision to partner with the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and the University of Southern California (USC), following two years of negotiations.
  • The Board held a brainstorming retreat at the Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel, where the decision was made to change the name of the organization from “California Center on International Affairs” to “Pacific Council on International Policy.”
  • The Pacific Council emerged at a time when the world was becoming increasingly interconnected. The Council’s founders believed that the West Coast, not just the D.C.-New York corridor, had an important role to play in grappling with global issues and developing improved U.S. foreign policy. By building the Pacific Council as a membership organization, they aimed to reframe U.S. foreign policy as a concern not only for foreign policy practitioners, but also leaders from sectors like business, media, politics, academia, and law.
  • The number of founding members was 247 with 34 of those being our founding board members. In addition, 231 members of CFR’s western affiliates accepted membership into the Pacific Council (slight overlap with the founding members).
  • Dr. Abraham Lowenthal, then a professor in the School of International Relations at USC, was selected as the first president of the Pacific Council (1995-2005).
  • USC offered headquarters space, logistical cooperation, and in-kind support to help launch the Council.
  • Founding supporters included: Robert Erburu, Chairman of the Times Mirror Company; John Bryson, head of Edison International; and Steven Sample, President of USC; and U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who later served as Director and Co-Chair of the Pacific Council’s Board of Directors until his passing in 2011. The Pacific Council continues to honor his leadership and his memory through the Warren Christopher Public Service Award.
  • The Council held its first annual Members Weekend conference.
  • The Council received support from the Ahmanson Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, the General Service Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the governments of Canada and Mexico, ARCO, AT&T, Bank of America, the Boeing Company, the Capital Group, Chase Manhattan Bank, the Walt Disney Company, Edison International, First Interstate Bank of California, Hughes Electronics, IBM, J.P. Morgan Co., Kaufman and Broad Home Corporation, La Opinión, Microsoft Corporation, Pacific Enterprises, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, the Times Mirror Company, Warner Bros., and 102 individuals who made voluntary contributions beyond membership dues during the Council’s first two years.


  • The Council expanded beyond Southern California to include members from and programming in Northern California and Seattle.
  • The Council published its first Annual Report: Launching a New Institution.


  • The Council became further known as a source of experts with varied viewpoints on all types of international issues.
  • The Council launched its public affairs and communications department.


  • The Council launched its “Pacific Council Dateline” newspaper.
  • The Council sought to develop a studies program and Mexico and Canada chapters.


  • The Council launched its Mexico Task Force and Corporate program.
  • The Council published its first website.
  • In the Council’s early years, there were a number of international visiting fellows from Mexico, China, and elsewhere, as well as a number of leading U.S. journalists who were visiting fellows.


  • During the 2000-2001 program year, the Board committed itself to a strategic review of the organization.
  • From 2000-2005, the Board reinforced its partnership with USC and CFR.
  • The number of programs grew from an average of some 35 per year in the Council’s first three years to more than 60 in 2000, including 30 in Los Angeles, 18 in San Francisco, and four each in Seattle, San Diego, and the Silicon Valley area.
  • The Council published its Annual Report: From Start-Up to Institution.


  • The Board approved a 3-year extension of its partnership with CFR.
  • The Board deliberated over a mission concept for the organization: “It is important and viable for the West Coast to have a multisector leadership organization focusing on international trends, challenges, and opportunities—helping its members and sponsors determine how best to respond to international issues in their own domains and how to contribute more effectively to national and international policy responses.”
  • The Council sought to develop relationships with CNN, Bloomberg, CNBC, and PBS, to publish more op-eds, and to have more of a presence in Washington, D.C.


  • The Council launched its Next Generation Task Force, with a focus on emerging leaders under 40 years old.
  • The Council formed a partnership with El Consejo Mexicano de Asuntos Internacionales, (“COMEXI,” Mexico’s “CFR,” the Mexican Council of International Affairs).


  • The Council began hosting organized field visits.
  • The Council developed a relationship with the Edgerton Foundation, which still supports Iran, Turkey, and China-focused programming.


  • The Council strengthened its West Coast ties (Vancouver to Seattle to San Diego to Mexico), and focused on general membership meetings up and down the West Coast and on study group projects and reports on Mexico, China, Korea, Japan, Israel and the Palestinians, intellectual property, the foreign policy interests of the western states, and studies of how LA, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle related to the world economy, diversity, and American foreign policy.
  • In November, Dr. Lowenthal stepped down as president of the Pacific Council.


  • The organization increased its overall membership, as well as its overall diversity in terms of gender, location, and professions.
  • Women made up 23 percent of the membership, an increase from 20.4 percent in 2000.
  • The Council continued its Next Generation Task Force, which was designed to find new members that are under 40 and who are emerging leaders in their field.
  • New foundation grants totaling $1.3 million to support the Council’s activities from 2005-2007 were announced.
  • In June, the Council established its Joint U.S.-Indian Task Force and published a report, India-U.S. Relations: A Vision for the Future.
  • The Board set a target of 70 programs per year for subsequent years.
  • The Board selected Geoffrey Garrett as its new president (2005-2008).
  • In November, the Council held its 10th anniversary Members Weekend.
  • The Council held its 10th Anniversary Gala honoring founding Council President Abraham Lowenthal.


  • The Council launched a new website.
  • The Board of Directors was co-chaired by John E. Bryson, Chairman and CEO of Edison International, and Warren Christopher, former U.S. Secretary of State.


  • At the end of the year, Mr. Garrett informed the Board that he would be stepping down as president of the Pacific Council.
  • The Council launched a 2007-2012 strategic plan and designed a new logo.


  • The Council strengthened its partnership with COMEXI by forming a Joint U.S.-Mexico Task Force.
  • On March 30, the Board selected Dr. Jerrold Green as the next president and CEO of the Pacific Council.
  • In June, the Council founded its Emerging Leaders Member Committee.
  • The Council launched a new website.
  • The Council began discussions on its “Global LA” project.
  • CFR and the Pacific Council ended their formal affiliation.


  • The Council moved off the USC campus and into an office in downtown LA.
  • In October, the Pacific Council and COMEXI released its Joint U.S.-Mexico Task Force report.


  • In April, the Council held its inaugural Spring Conference.
  • The Council formed a Task Force on California’s Adaptation to Climate Change.
  • The Council began holding teleconferences to inform members about important international affairs stories.
  • Ambassador Robert Tuttle became a Co-Chair of the Council’s Board of Directors.
  • Jennifer Faust became the Council’s executive vice president.


  • Former U.S. Secretary of State and early Pacific Council supporter Warren Christopher passed away.
  • President Obama nominates John Bryson, then-Co-Chair of the Council’s Board of Directors, to be Secretary of Commerce.


  • On January 15, the Council’s communications department created its Twitter and Facebook accounts.
  • In June, former U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor was appointed Co-Chair of the Council’s Board of Directors.



  • In April, the Council launched a 2014-2019 strategic plan.


  • In September, the Council launched a new website, still in use today. The website included an online Newsroom for the first time, where members can publish analysis and commentary on international policy issues.
  • The Council published its Global LA report.
  • The Council launched video about the Pacific Council for its 20th anniversary, held a gala featuring former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.


  • In June, the Council published a report on U.S.-China public diplomacy, which Pacific Council President and CEO Dr. Jerrold Green presented to a conference in Beijing, A Path Forward: Advancing U.S.-China Relations Through Public Diplomacy.
  • Members in Seattle, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and Los Angeles helped develop the Council’s new Global Water Scarcity Project over six months with support from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.
  • The Council elected its first-ever member class with a majority of women, and hosted the first Members Weekend conference without a single all-male panel.
  • Also at Members Weekend, the Council launched a new mobile app for its conferences and delegations with real-time participant polling, agenda-setting, feedback, messaging abilities, and more.





Founding Board Members

  1. Mr. Robert Abernethy
  2. Hon. Michael Armacost
  3. Dr. Lloyd Armstrong, Jr.
  4. Mr. John Bryson
  5. The Rt. Joe Clark, P.C.
  6. Mr. Shelby Coffey, III
  7. Mr. Lewis Coleman
  8. Mr. John Cooke
  9. Ms. Lee Cullum
  10. Mr. Robert Erburu
  11. Dr. Alton Frye
  12. Ms. Linda Griego
  13. Mr. Edward Hamilton
  14. Mr. Hirotaro Higuchi
  15. Hon. Robert Hormats
  16. Ms. Karen House
  17. Hon. Jon Huntsman, Jr.
  18. Mr. Bruce Karatz
  19. Mr. Jessie Knight, Kr.
  20. Mr. Steve Koltai
  21. Hon. Mel Levine
  22. Dr. Abraham Lowenthal
  23. Mr. Richard Mallery
  24. Mr. Michael Murray
  25. Mr. Luis Nogales
  26. Dr. Condoleezza Rice
  27. Hon. Pamela Rymer
  28. Dr. Susan Shirk
  29. Mr. Jackson Tai
  30. Mr. David Tang
  31. Dr. Chang-Lin Tien
  32. Mr. Gerald Warren
  33. Mr. Mason Willrich
  34. Mr. Willis Wood, Jr.