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International Development Exec Named 2018 Distinguished Alum

August 30, 2018

The college is proud to announce that Eric Reading (B.S. '92, M.S. '93) has been named our Distinguished Alumnus for 2018.

If we had to pick just one example of the college’s catchphrase – “Engaging Today’s World, Producing Tomorrow’s Leaders” – Reading would be at the top of the list.

From his days studying at the college and serving as director of the World Affairs Program to his current position as executive vice president of an international development firm solving some of the world’s most difficult challenges, he exemplifies the values of engagement and leadership.

His academic career at FSU also looks like a great testimonial to the global focus and multidisciplinary approach of our programs. Reading earned his bachelor’s degree (1992) and his master’s (1993) in international affairs, with his undergraduate studies concentrated on political science and geography and his master’s on economics and Middle East studies.

Reading has made the most of those degrees at Chemonics, a development company whose mission is “to promote meaningful change around the world to help people live healthier, more productive, and more independent lives.” In his 24 years with the company he has worked on programs in local government and economic reform in Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union and helped create infrastructure for capital markets and for drinking water and sanitation in Egypt. In 2004, he went to Kosovo to lead a program for improved electricity services. A program he oversaw in the Republic of Georgia brought that country recognition as the most improved business environment in the world.

It was the year between graduation and starting with Chemonics, however, that solidified his engagement with the college as an alum.

“I struggled to find my first full-time position in my field,” he said, noting some early temp work in a law firm and then at a bank. “Actually, this may be a key motivation for the work I do with the college now.”

Remembering those struggles, Reading takes time now to help current students chart career paths and make the professional connections they need to start their careers. He organizes an annual career day to bring current students and alumni together in Washington, D.C., where he lives and works. He frequently travels to Tallahassee to take part in alumni panels to expose students to career options in international affairs.

Thanks to his dedication, many students have connected with alumni and potential employers across a range of organizations.

Much of his engagement has been with the World Affairs Program (WAP). This student-run academic program within the college promotes an increased awareness of the global community and encourages personal, social, and political growth among the students who participate in its activities, notably Model UN and Crisis Simulation conferences and competitions. The very active group has brought home numerous Best Delegation awards and ranks in the Top Model UN teams in North America.

Having served as WAP director 1990-1991, Reading remains very connected to the organization as a member of its advisory board; a donor; and a mentor, guide, and inspiration to students. He describes the World Affairs Program as exemplifying the Get More Than a Degree initiative of the college.

“It was where I gained the practical skills of research, negotiations, problem solving, public speaking, and organizational management that were just as important in a career as academic knowledge,” he said.

His dedication to our students is all the more remarkable considering his busy life. He oversees Chemonics’ global operations, including nearly 5,000 staff in 80 countries, working on such large-scale projects as improving fairness and transparency in Albania’s justice system, helping Colombia pursue conservation and rural sustainability, accelerating educational access in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and boosting investment in Sri Lanka’s economic future.

Today, Reading lives in Alexandria, Va., just outside D.C. with his wife Jennie and their children Claudia, 7, and John Porter, 5. But the FSU roots are strong for this first generation college student, and the college is grateful for his support and proud to name him our Distinguished Alumnus.

”I am honored and humbled to be selected as the college’s Distinguished Alumnus for 2018. I feel very fortunate to have a career that allows me to help improve the lives of millions of people around the world. It has been very rewarding to give back to the university to help connect students with opportunities in their chosen careers.“

Eric Reading (left) with past and present directors of the World Affairs Program – Ian Grossman,
Alex Ball, Taylor Zuccarello and Richard Sommers – at the organization’s annual banquet, April 20, 2018.