AUB Libraries Online Exhibits

Near East Relief 1918-1919

Bayard Dodge.jpg

Portrait of President Bayard Dodge Director of West Hall,  Director of  Near East Relief and President of SPC (AUB) 1923-1948, Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library, AUB

"The American Committee for Syrian and Armenian Relief, originally known as Near East Relief, was founded in 1915 in response to the massive humanitarian crisis precipitated by the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. Many millions of Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks, and members of other minority groups were displaced, and over a million and a half died as a result of deportation, forced marches, starvation, and execution. The number would have been significantly higher had it not been for the efforts of U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Henry Morgenthau and the group of his friends and colleagues that would later become NER’s founding Board. With the help of then-President Woodrow Wilson, NER’s founders established a small-scale relief operation and began to solicit donations from the American public. These fundraising appeals—spearheaded by NER’s first president, Cleveland Dodge—proved immensely successful. In 1921, the organization’s annual report cited a six-year operating budget of approximately 70 million dollars. This money was used to save the lives of at least a million people amidst the wreckage of the Ottoman Empire; treat more than six million patients in NER-run clinics throughout the region; establish orphanages and provide education to over a hundred thousand Armenian children orphaned in the upheaval"

From the Near East Foundation website:, retrieved November 2014.


New York Times, July 16, 1922.jpg

New York Times announcement on Near East Relief Report, 1922

NER’s enormous impact in the region attracted the patronage of a host of the era’s most well-known public figures, including former U.S. Presidents William Taft and Calvin Coolidge (setting a trend for Presidential involvement that would later be continued by Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Dwight Eisenhower, among others), who were all closely affiliated with the organization  By 1919, NER had grown to include operations throughout the Middle East and West Asia, and consequently changed its name to “Near East Relief” to capture this expansion. The organization’s subsequent name change in 1930 to the current “Near East Foundation” reflected a shift in emphasis away from relief work to more sustained, long term development-oriented involvement in the region. The practice NER established of working in tandem with foreign governments and local organizations was nearly unprecedented at the time, but has since provided a model for many of today’s most well-known development organizations— US AID, etc."

From the Near East Foundation website:, retrieved November 2014.