James A. Joseph
Professor of the Practice Emeritus in the Sanford School of Public Policy

Ambassador James A. Joseph is professor emeritus of the practice of public policy at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. He is also leader in residence for the Hart Leadership Program and founder of the United States – Southern Africa Center for Leadership and Public Values at Duke and the University of Cape Town.

He has served in senior executive or advisory positions for four U.S. Presidents, including appointments by President Jimmy Carter as Under Secretary of the Interior and President William Clinton as U.S. Ambassador to South Africa. In 1999, the Republic of South Africa awarded Ambassador Joseph the Order of Good Hope, the highest honor bestowed on a citizen of another country. In 2008, he was inducted into the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame and in 2010 he was honored by the United States Peace Corps for his life- long contributions to voluntarism and civil society. The founding chair of the Commission on National and Community Service that established AmeriCorps, he serves presently as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Foundation for Louisiana (formerly the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation), and as a member of the board of directors of the Heron Foundation in New York City.

Ambassador Joseph has had a distinguished career in business, education and civil society. From 1982-1995, he was President and Chief Executive Officer of the Council on Foundations, an international organization of more than 2000 foundations and corporate giving programs. He served as a Vice President of Cummins Engine Company, the world’s largest producer of heavy duty diesel engines, and President of the Cummins Foundation from 1971-1977.

An ordained minister, he has taught at Yale Divinity School and the Claremont Colleges where he was also University Chaplain. In 1985, he was a Distinguished Visitor at Nuffield College at Oxford University and serves presently as an Honorary Professor and a member of the Board of Advisors of the Graduate School of Business at the University of Cape Town. After graduating from Southern University and Yale, Ambassador Joseph began his career at Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 1963, where he was also founding co-chair of the local civil rights movement.

A frequent speaker to academic, civic and religious audiences, he is the author of three books, "The Charitable Impulse," "Remaking America" and "Leadership as a Way of Being." A fourth book on "Private Virtue and the Search for Public Values" will be published by the Duke University Press in 2013.

He is the recipient of nineteen honorary degrees and his undergraduate alma mater, Southern University, has named an endowed chair in his honor. The Board of Directors of the Council on Foundations appointed him President Emeritus and the Association of Black Foundation Executives established the James A. Joseph Lecture on Philanthropy. He is also chairman emeritus of the NHP Foundation.

In 1979, Joseph was named by "Ebony" magazine as “One of the 100 Most Influential Black Americans” and later by Fortune magazine as one of “America’s Best Nonprofit Managers.” He has served on the Board of Directors of the Brookings Institution, the National Endowment for Democracy, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the Children’s Defense Fund and City Year South Africa. He serves presently as a member of the board of directors and chairman emeritus of MDC, the successor to the North Carolina Fund now serving low wealth communities throughout the South, and as a member of the Board of Advisors of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University and the Andrew Young Policy Center at Morehouse College. A director of the Management and Training Corporation, he is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the National Academy for Public Administration.

Ambassador Joseph is married to the former Mary Braxton, an Emmy Award winning television journalist. He has two children and two grand children.

Current Appointments & Affiliations

Contact Information

  • 201 Science Drive, 116 Sanford Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
  • Box 90248, Sanford Schoolof Public Polic, Durham, NC 27708

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