US Department of State and US Agency for International Development
CLASS OF 1951
When Kurt Teil arrived in the U.S. in 1940 after fleeing Nazi persecution in Germany, he never could have predicted that an education at Washington & Jefferson College was in his future. The 16-year old and his family arrived in Pittsburgh virtually penniless and with only a moderate knowledge of American language and customs. Despite these drawbacks, Teil quickly embraced and adapted to his new country, even joining the U.S. Army Air Force in 1943 to participate in the liberation of Germany from the Nazis.
When Teil entered W&J in 1947, he was happy to find himself in the company of fellow World War II veterans studying under the G.I. Bill. “We had something very much in common,” he recalls. “We were perhaps somewhat less inclined to look for fun and games, but were nevertheless respected and welcomed as war veterans.” The personal experiences of his youth in Germany led him to especially appreciate W&J’s early efforts for a more racially diversified student body.
Upon graduation, Teil attended the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University where he received his master’s degree in international law and relations. He went on to work briefly for the Pentagon before accepting a job with the Department of State, Agency for International Development. After 31 years of dedication to international development and foreign assistance, Teil retired in 1987 and shifted his attention from the issues of international importance to the individual struggles of human beings.
Ill-suited for a leisure retirement, Teil moved back to Germany and began to work as a volunteer with the German Society for Dying in Dignity, an organization that strives to optimize the rights of people suffering from chronic incurable illness and pain. Specifically, the organization provides guidance on living wills and end-of-life issues. This work fulfills his continuing desire to “make a contribution.”
Today, Teil is grateful to W&J for giving him the tools to pursue such demanding careers and causes. “W&J taught me to think critically with confidence and without fear of holding unpopular views,” he says. “It is a practice that has served me well.”