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Former Perham exchange student earns honors

Patrick Mendis has been named an Alumnus of Notable Achievement at the University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts. He is pictured here with previous award recipient Rebecca Blank, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce, at an event in Washington, D.C. Submitted photo

Dr. Patrick Mendis, a former AFS exchange scholar from Sri Lanka to Perham High School (1978-79), was recently named an Alumnus of Notable Achievement at the University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts.

Mendis graduated from the college in 1989 with a Ph.D. in geography/applied economics, and also earned a master’s degree in international development and foreign policy from the University’s Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

“There are more than 127,000 College of Liberal Arts alumni; this year we honor 18 of you, recognizing that without your achievements our state, nation and world would be diminished,” said James A. Parente, Jr., the college’s dean, at a March 28 award ceremony.

From 2000-04, Mendis served in the U.S. government, including the State Department under Secretary Madeline Albright and General Colin Powell. In 2012, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appointed him as a commissioner to the United States National Commission for UNESCO.

Mendis has held positions in the Minnesota House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the World Bank, and the United Nations. He currently resides in Reston, Va.

Mendis is a distinguished senior fellow and affiliate professor of public and international affairs, as well as an adjunct professor of geography and geoinformation science at George Mason University. He has taught international trade and American foreign policy courses at the University of Minnesota, University of Maryland and Yale University.

He is an acclaimed author of more than 100 books, journal articles, newspaper columns and government reports. Proceeds from the sales of his most recent two books have been donated to establish scholarships and a peace prize in his native Sri Lanka, and to support Kiva microloan projects in over 30 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. To honor the memory of his mentor and friend, Mendis established The Edward Burdick Legislative Award, which annually recognizes a Humphrey School of Public Affairs student for exceptional work in bipartisan public policy issue or legislation in Minnesota.

An advisor to the Harvard International Review and a councilor of the Harvard Kennedy School Alumni DC Council, Mendis recently concluded a two-month study and lecture tour. The tour covered 12 universities and institutions in eight cities in mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. He serves as a distinguished visiting professor at the Center for American Studies at the Guangdong University of Foreign Studies in Guangzhou, China.

Alumni of Notable Achievement are people whose accomplishments and leadership have brought distinction to their professions, their communities and the college. Of the college’s 127,000 graduates, only about 1,200 have been selected for the title.