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Head of AFS reaches out to the world. 40-year-old international exchange program led by a former US ambassador

By Rushworth M. KidderStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / June 26, 1987


THE new president of American Field Service International/Intercultural has a flair for the unusual. Ulric St. Clair Haynes Jr. speaks English in public, French at home, and three other languages as needed. Where others carry briefcases, he carries a small backpack. As ambassador to Algeria during the Carter administration, he stage-managed the negotiations over the United States hostages being held in Iran. ``It was very easy for me to identify with the mission of AFS,'' says Mr. Haynes, who in December took over the reins of that highly regarded New York-based granddaddy of international exchange programs. ``I'm an unashamed and admitted do-gooder,'' he says with disarming urbanity.

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His stint as an ambassador, which followed several years in Tehran as an executive with the Cummins Engine Company, rewarded his idealism: The negotiations culminated in what he calls ``a blaze of glory'' when the hostages returned. And it left Haynes - born in New York of parents who emigrated from Barbados, and married to a Haitian whose great-grandfather was Haitian ambassador to France, the Vatican, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire - more committed than ever to the value of cross-cultural experience.

``My interest is to see the crisis from the other guy's point of view,'' he said over lunch during a visit to Boston. ``If you can understand where he's coming from, you know how to deal with it.''

For ``Rick'' Haynes, that interest in other peoples came while he was a grade-schooler in Brooklyn. ``One of the big attractions for me and my group of friends at school was to scour the Third Avenue bookshops, underneath the elevated train,'' he says. He had hardly any money, but he recalls that ``for a nickel I could get three National Geographics.'' Poring over them, he says, ``I got to know that there were places in the world other than Brooklyn. And I just dreamed, all my childhood, of going to exotic places.''

But he had some hard lessons to learn along the way. After graduating in 1952 from Amherst College, he went to Yale Law School.

``The whole educational process had given me the values of my classmates - and [their] aspirations,'' he says. But once beyond the academic walls - despite his solid record and his linguistic prowess - he found that being black put him in what he calls ``a world for which Amherst had not prepared me, or Yale.''

``When I got out of law school [in 1956], I made 135 job applications to major law firms, small law firms, and to corporate legal departments,'' he recalls. ``I had about 70-plus interviews. And I got one job offer. My first reaction was to be very angry with the deception which had been wrought on me.''

But the job offer that came was from New York Gov. W.Averell Harriman. That, in turn, led Haynes to a stint at the United Nations Secretariat in Geneva, and later to a post at the State Department under Mr. Harriman during the Kennedy administration. He then served on the National Security Council under McGeorge Bundy and Walter Rostow during the Johnson administration. Growing ``increasingly uncomfortable'' with American involvement in Vietnam, he left to join a management consulting firm in New York.

What will he do with all that experience in his present assignment?