It is with real sadness that I share the news of John Goelet’s passing. He died at home in Maryland on January 8th, aged 91 years. He is survived by Henrietta, his wife of nearly 70 years, and by his sons Philip and Christopher. 

Across three energetic decades, Americans for Middle East Understanding was fortunate to have a meaningful and collaborative relationship with John Goelet. Together with his wife Henrietta Goelet, he was a steadfast supporter of our work, and a longstanding member of the AMEU Board. Indeed, it is hard to overstate the ways in which John impacted AMEU. Even as his keen, innovative and radical intellect pursued the loftiest matters of science, art and business, it was his serious devotion to bettering American understanding of the Middle East region that connected him to us. He had a nuanced understanding of American engagement in the Middle East of the 20th and 21st centuries, and used his considerable wherewithal to improve that track record, in ways large and small. When AMEU needed a broader focus on archaeology in the Middle East, John  provided considered guidance; when new information rose to the surface regarding matters of international law, John shared vital insights and contacts. When AMEU needed to expand its reach to new audiences, he helped us close the distance. Our boardmembers will remember when, not too long ago, a core sponsor abruptly pulled its support and AMEU was confronted with the prospect of imminent closure. Without calling attention to himself in the slightest, John raised his hand, and the lights at 475 Riverside Drive stayed on. 

John Goelet’s was a life lived fully. While he is known for many things– a world-renowned Cabernet Sauvignon he and Henrietta brought to life; his endless generosities to museum and university collections; unique innovations in arid lands agriculture; even flying cars!– at Americans for Middle East Understanding, we will always know John Goelet for his commitment to deepening American understandings of culture and justice. He made us, and America, measurably better. We are grateful to Henrietta for sharing his exceptional acquaintance. 

N. Griffin

The Goelet family asks that in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions be sent to Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem Foundation: 

Holy Family Hospital Foundation
2000 P Street NW #310 
Washington DC 20036 
Tel. 202-785-0801

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