Alumnus Jon Summers to speak April 15 on ‘Afghanistan—The Limits of Power’

March 18, 2010

Jon Summers, Luther College class of 1963, will present the lecture “Afghanistan—The Limits of Power,” Thursday, April 15 at 7 p.m. in Room 206 of Valders Hall of Science.

Summers will discuss his 10-year working experience in Afghanistan with the Asia Foundation. The lecture will focus on the challenges of providing development assistance in a complex security and political environment.   

“Afghanistan is the country I know best, with nearly 10 years of living and working in the country,” said Summers. “It is a country that is challenging and will challenge the U.S. and international community for a long time. Afghanistan has a wide range of people and points of view, and it is a complex and fascinating country of amazing people.”  

In addition to the April 15 lecture and discussion, Jon Summers and his wife, Eileen Summers, will be on campus April 12-16 in residency, supported by the Sense of Vocation and Center for Ethics and Public Life. They will visit a range of political science, social work and psychology classes, work with faculty and meet informally with students doing work in counseling, social work, and forgiveness research.     

After receiving the bachelor’s degree in English and history from Luther, Jon Summers earned the master’s degree in English at Texas Tech University and the doctoral degree at the University of Missouri in English literature. 

After serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Afghanistan and later as the director of the Afghan-American Educational Commission, he began working for the Asia Foundation in 1979, serving as country representative for Malaysia, Singapore, Bangladesh, Nepal, Indonesia and Cambodia.

From October 2002 until August 2007, he served as the country representative for Afghanistan. He managed the design and implementation of the foundation’s largest country program on governance, elections, judicial reform, women’s advancement and higher education. 

The foundation was also involved in the state-building exercises detailed in the Bonn Accords in December 2001, including the Emergency Loya Jirga (Grand National Assembly), constitutional process, presidential election, and National Assembly and Provincial Council Elections. 

From August 2007 through May 2009, Summers served as the country representative for Pakistan, where he provided leadership for the development and implementation of all programs, including the $5.4 million Supporting Free and Fair Elections in Pakistan program, as well as a $5.6 million tuberculosis program.

He currently serves as the representative-at-large for fhe Asia Foundation. Based in Cambodia, he provides technical assistance and consultation for all the foundation’s offices in Asia on a range of issues, including project management, organizational reform, team-building, program development, and strategic thinking and planning. 

Summers has received numerous awards for his work, including three Asia Foundation Presidential Awards, the most recent in 2007 for excellence in program leadership.

Eileen Summers, after receiving the bachelor’s degree in sociology from Luther, earned the master’s degree from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administrations. She is a licensed clinical social worker and is a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers of the National Association of Social Workers. 

She also holds specialization training in solution oriented brief therapy from Portland State University, divorce mediation from the Erickson Mediation Institute, and certification from the Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Institute, Inc. 

After serving as a Peace Corps volunteer English teacher and later as Peace Corps staff in Afghanistan from 1974-79, she worked as an educational advisor in Malaysia and Bangladesh. From 1992-96, she was a staff counselor and later the counseling director for the counseling department of the International Community Activity Center in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Summers served as psychotherapist in private practice in Phnom Penh, Cambodia from 1996 to 2002. She offered counseling and therapy for the international community, conducted adoption home studies for inter-country adoptions, developed and taught basic counseling theory and skills courses at The Royal University of Phnom Penh, and provided personal counseling for Cambodian mental health workers in training.

From 2003-07, she moved her private practice to Kabul, Afghanistan, and from 2007-09 to Islamabad, Pakistan.  In both countries, she provided counseling and therapy for the international community, offered supervision and consultation for professional staff of various organizations, and conducted seminars on stress, conflict and crisis management and vicarious trauma.