The Committee on Foreign Relations Minnesota marked its 75th anniversary in 2015. It was founded shortly before World War II as the St. Paul - Minneapolis Committee on Foreign Relations, one of the first thirteen regional committees established by the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations in a national effort to counter the isolationist mood then prevailing across the country.
The earliest committees were founded in 1938. At least forty two of them operated at one time or another. The Council provided them with speakers and other means of support. The 1941-42 roster listed fifty members including many prominent business, academic, religious and political leaders. St. Paul attorney George Morgan was president.
Among the members were William McKnight, president of Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co. (3M); Minnesota Governor Harold Stassen; and Dr. Walter Judd, who served as a congressman from Minneapolis in the U.S. House of Representatives for two decades beginning in 1942. Other early members included the presidents of the University of Minnesota, Macalester College, Carleton College, Northwest Bancorporation, West Publishing, Waldorf Paper, the Minneapolis Star-Journal and the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
In 1995, the Council on Foreign Relations decided to drop its regional committees. The committees responded by establishing a new organization, the American Committees on Foreign Relations (ACFR), based in Washington. Initially, the ACFR flourished, growing to about thirty five affiliates. But like many other nonprofits, it was hit hard by the severe recession that began in late 2007. The ACFR had to restructure with many fewer affiliates in 2012. The following year, the St. Paul - Minneapolis Committee on Foreign Relations dropped its affiliation with the ACFR, opting instead for independent status as the Committee on Foreign Relations Minnesota.
Robert W. Smith, publisher of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, served as Chairman of the St. Paul-Minneapolis Committee in the early 1970s. Robert J. White, the Tribune's associate editor, succeeded Smith in the mid-70s. In 1995, Barbara Frey, founder of Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, succeeded White. Since 2002, the Chairman has been Roger Prestwich, previously Professor and Interim Dean in the College of Management at Metropolitan State University, now Professor Emeritus.
The Committee on Foreign Relations Minnesota, which is a 501c(3) nonprofit corporation, brings in dinner speakers to address a broad variety of global concerns. Its ranks include civic leaders, academics, former diplomats, business and nonprofit executives, attorneys, journalists and others seeking to enhance their understanding of the world around us.
Among recent speakers have been former Vice President Walter Mondale, journalists Gillian Tett and Ed Luce from the Financial Times, and Shadow Factory author James Bamford.
Minnesota Committee on Foreign Relations History Project
The Minnesota Committee on Foreign Relations history project is an initiative undertaken to help the Committee observe the 75th anniversary of its founding in 1940 as the St. Paul-Minneapolis Committee on Foreign Relations. It consists of seven articles: an overall history of the organization and profiles of six Committee leaders over the years. Four of them led the group as chairs (Carroll Binder, Jule Hanneford, Bob White and Barbara Frey) and two were important members (Harold Deutsch and Barbara Stuhler). Among the primary sources for this project are the Council on Foreign Relations archives at Princeton University's Mudd Manuscript Library, the archives of Carroll Binder at the Newberry Library in Chicago, the papers of David Winton and Barbara Stuhler at the Minnesota History Center's Gale Family Library and the archives of Harold Deutsch at the University of Minnesota. Dave Beal, the Committee's current Treasurer, reported and wrote the stories. Beal, a retired business editor and columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, is a free-lance journalist.