Ambassador Robinson keeps doing it all
Follow your calling
The National Archives recently collected more than 150 boxes of paperwork documenting the accomplishments of Ambassador Gilbert A. Robinson ’50.
Impressive as that is, he laughs and says that’s just his past. Now, what has him excited is his plan for yet another career. That’s right. After a lifetime of noted work in politics, international diplomacy, business and charities, Robinson is tackling another job – actually two. While most of his classmates are retired, Robinson is working as chairman of both New Realm Investments, an investment firm he and a friend are launching on Wall Street, and the National Bible Association.
“We are going through a difficult time right now, no question. But at the same time, things will change,” he says. “People think they’ve got to limit themselves … but I think you have to follow your calling.”
Robinson has had a lot of callings. The Eagle Scout and economics major from New York developed an expertise in communications, served in the U.S. Army and later was appointed to key positions with the administrations of Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan. As special advisor to Secretary of State George Schultz, he was named “Ambassador” in 1983.
The former captain of the College’s swim team glided between various careers, some serving government and public service and others in the business community. In 1959, it was his suggestion that created the famous “kitchen debate” by having then-Vice President Richard Nixon meet with the Russian premier in a model kitchen at an exhibit in Moscow.” Almost 20 years later, he was still strengthening international relations, but then by leading the first U.S. business delegation to China.
Robinson also made time for creating Corporations to End World Hunger to help feed orphans in the former Soviet Union and spent five years as head of the Center for the Study of the Presidency, a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization that educates young leaders and advises the federal government. In 1992, he was honored with the Roanoke College’s Sesquicentennial Distinguished Alumni Award.
Nowadays, in addition to leading the National Bible Association, Robinson is helping establish his new investment firm in New York City and planning on writing a book.
“My working title is ‘You Can Do It All’– not that ‘You Can Have It All,’” he says from his home in McLean, Virginia. “The point I want to make is that you can do a lot of different things. For young students, the worst question people can ask is ‘What do you want to be?’ You can find many ways to follow your heart, and your potential is unlimited.”