The Deacon Blog

A magazine staff blog with news of alumni and the WFU community

Class of 1982

Our man in Bahrain

Roebuck-at-HearingAfter serving in some of the hottest spots in the world — Libya, Iraq, Syria and Israel — William Roebuck’s (’78, MA ’82) next posting might seem like a day at the beach for the career diplomat.

In July, President Obama nominated Roebuck as the next U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain, an archipelago in the Persian Gulf with about 1.3 million people. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved Roebuck’s nomination last month, but he still awaits confirmation by the full Senate. (Bill Roebuck was confirmed by the Senate in November and began his posting in Bahrain on Jan. 8, 2015.)

Testifying before the foreign relations committee, Roebeck summed up his impressive 20-year career: “I have spent most of my career posted in the Middle East … fostering political dialogue, providing support for elections, helping governments address the threats posed by terrorism and violent extremism, promoting and protecting human rights, and encouraging regional security efforts between neighbors.”

Roebuck follows in the footsteps of at least two other alumni. Jeannette Wallace Hyde (’58) was ambassador to Barbados and areas of the West Indies from 1994 to 1997. The late Graham Martin (’32) was a career diplomat who served as ambassador to Thailand and Italy and was the last U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam before the country’s fall to North Vietnam in 1975.

“Bill” Roebuck, 58, grew up in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and received a George Foster Hankins Scholarship to Wake Forest. He wrote for the Old Gold & Black and earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in English literature.

As reported on the news site, AllGov.com, and in his State Department biography, Roebuck served in Côte D’Ivoire during a stint with the Peace Corps and taught English in Saudi Arabia. After earning a law degree from the University of Georgia, he joined the Foreign Service in 1992. In the two decades since, he’s become a well-traveled and respected diplomat.

He was a political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv for several years before moving to Damascus, Syria, where he served as acting deputy chief of mission. After a short stint in Washington, he went back to the Middle East as deputy political counselor at the embassy in Baghdad in 2009 and 2010.

Roebuck was sent to Tripoli, Libya, in early 2013 as chargé d’affaires — the top U.S. diplomat in the country in the absence of an ambassador — several months after Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. Most recently, he was deputy assistant secretary of state of Egypt and Maghreb Affairs, based in Washington.

While Bahrain doesn’t attract the headlines of its Middle East neighbors, Roebuck isn’t likely to have much time to spend at the beach. He’s sure to be tested as he and the U.S. government push back against the Bahrain government’s human-rights record and targeting of opposition groups.

Fitting for one who spent his college days studying literature, Roebuck occasionally writes poetry for the Foreign Service Journal. Bahrain’s leading English newspaper, the Daily Tribune, even described the “new amby” as a poet. Roebuck once penned a moving tribute to his late friend, Chris Stevens, which reads, in part:

“I think back to that long night last September: the frantic phone calls,
 The unreliable shards of information, the series of urgent plans drawn up and discarded, The crushing news, And no time to mourn, then or later.”

— Kerry M. King (’85)

Party on! A WFU grad will help

The summer issue of Wake Forest Magazine closes with “The Artist’s Way of Metaphorically Seeking,” an essay by Charlotte entrepreneur Mary Tribble (’82) in which she writes about how she decided to sell her respected Tribble Creative Group after a U.S. Postal Service truck t-boned her car on the way to yoga class on Christmas Eve 2008.

“For five months after the accident, I tried to get my life back to normal,” she writes. “While I mended my body through rehab, surgery and more rehab, I virtually abandoned my company. The resulting drop in business, combined with the recession, brought the opportunity for change to a head. A key employee was ready to buy. And finally, I was ready to sell.”

The announcement about her decision made front-page news in The Charlotte Observer. In December the deal closed.

Her essay discusses how she has been exploring “the wide-open options” and how her education at Wake Forest as an art major has helped her remain flexible in thinking about possibilities.

“What’s next?” people wondered. The answer came this week. Dan Murrey, executive director of the Charlotte In 2012 host committee, named seven members of the committee’s leadership for the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Tribble will be chief of event planning, an enormous responsibility for promoting Charlotte to the world and making sure the convention meets the Democrats’ expectations.

“It’s serendipitous,” she told me. “What are the odds that I would sell my company, be available and the DNC would announce Charlotte as the convention site?” Already she is waking up with ideas, intent on seeing the convention leave a long-term impact. “All the eyes of the world will be on Charlotte for those four or five days,” she says, “and we can create a lasting legacy for Charlotte and the state.” (Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper said the 2008 Democratic National Convention had a $266 million regional economic benefit in direct and indirect spending.)

Tribble credits her good fortune to “totally being open. It’s another new chapter.”