American University of Beirut

Dr. Richard A. Debs
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    Biography of Richard A. Debs:

    Richard A Debs has enjoyed two successful careers in the financial industry. The first was as an official of the Federal Reserve System from 1960 to 1976. He then joined Morgan Stanley as the Founding President of Morgan Stanley International to develop the investment bank's international business, now a major part of its global activities. Upon his retirement as President, he continued as an Advisory Director of Morgan Stanley and has remained active in the Firm's international affairs. Since 2011, he also took on the position of Chairman of Morgan Stanley Saudi Arabia.

    Before joining Morgan Stanley, he was the Chief Operating Officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, where he also served as an Alternate Member of the Federal Open Market Committee. During his 16 years at the Federal Reserve, he served as a member of the FMOC Committee on Foreign Currency and the Committee on International Banking. He was also Chairman of the Federal Reserve Treasury Committee on Fiscal Agency Operations, which under his direction created the first Book-entry System for securities in 1970. He also served as an advisor on the United States delegations to the IMF and World Bank annual meetings. He was the Fed's principal contact with the OPEC countries during the global petrodollar problems in the 70's. During his transition from the Fed to Morgan Stanley, at the request of David Rockefeller he served as a pro-bono financial advisor to President Sadat of Egypt.

    At Morgan Stanley International, he led the process of establishing offices abroad, beginning with the first Morgan Stanley office in London in 1977. Shortly thereafter Morgan Stanley was appointed lead manager of the United Kingdom's first Yankee Bond issue. Other offices were gradually established throughout Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, thereby facilitating a successful global business.

    After he retired as President of Morgan Stanley International, he continued to work as an Advisory Director of Morgan Stanley. During that period, he also served as a member of the "Group of Eight", former senior managers of Morgan Stanley who worked to bring about corporate governance improvements in the Firm. He established a consulting firm, R.A. Debs & Co., through which he has been involved in a variety of business and philanthropic activities. Among other business associations, he has served as Chairman of the Malaysia Fund, of Mizuho Securities USA, and Morgan Stanley Saudi Arabia; as a Director of IBJ Whitehall Bank, Mizuho Corporate Bank (USA), Aubrey G. Lanston & Co., and Gulf International Bank (London); and as an advisor to the Industrial Bank of Japan, Dai-Ichi Mutual Life Insurance Company, the Nissho-Iwai Corporation, and Bank Julius Baer.

    Through the Debs Foundation, founded by Mr. and Mrs. Debs, he has been active in a variety of philanthropic areas, with focus on education, civil liberties and music and the arts. Among other projects they created the Composers Chair at Carnegie Hall and supported programs at the Brooklyn Museum, the New York Historical Society, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Harvard Law School, and The Hospital for Special Surgery. He is Chairman Emeritus of the American University of Beirut, and was Chairman of its International Advisory Council. He was also Chairman Emeritus of Carnegie Hall and served on its Executive Committee. He also served as a trustee of the Institute of International Education, the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, and the Barenboim Said Foundation, and trustee emeritus of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Co-Chair of its Middle East program.

    He was Chairman of the Bretton Woods Committee International Council; Vice Chairman of the U.S. - Saudi Business Council; Co-Chair of the Columbia University Middle East Institute Advisory Council; and a member of the Group of Thirty. He has served as past Chairman of the New York Stock Exchange International Committee; and as a member of the National Commission on the Public Service, the Carnegie Commission on the Role of the Multinational Development Banks, the Russian-American Bankers Forum, and the Board of Governors of the Foreign Policy Association; and on advisory committees of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York; the World Bank; the International Monetary Fund; the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development; as well as visiting committees of Princeton, Harvard, and Columbia Universities. He was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations; the US/Middle East Project; the Economic Club of New York; the American Council on Germany and the Japan Society.

    He has been honored with awards from the Fulbright Association, the Third Street Music School Settlement, the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, the Arab American Bankers Association, the Harvard Law School, and the National Academy of Design, as well as the Government of Saudi Arabia, with the King Abdul Aziz Medal, and the Government of Lebanon, with the Cedars of Lebanon Medal.

    He graduated summa cum laude from Colgate University, and holds an MA and a PhD from Princeton, where he was a Ford Foundation Fellow. A member of the New York Bar, he was a graduate of the Harvard Law School as well as the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School. He was a Fulbright Scholar in Egypt, where he subsequently held a joint Harvard-Princeton research fellowship on Islamic law. He later founded an Islamic law library collection at Harvard, and recently completed a book "Islamic Law and Civil Code" published by Columbia University Press and the American University in Cairo.
    Mr. Debs was married to Dr. Barbara Knowles Debs, former President of Manhattanville College and of The New-York Historical Society.

    Mr. Debs has been listed in numerous editions of Who's Who in Finance and Business, Who's Who In Finance and Industry, Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the East, and Who's Who in the World.​​

    Born October 7, 1930 in Providence, Rhode Island, he spent his career in New York City and returned to Providence to be with his family in recent years. He passed away January 28, 2024 peacefully at home with his wife of 65 years, Barbara K. Debs. His father emigrated from Deir el Ghazal in 1900 and became a proud United States citizen and his mother's family were Syrian-American.​​

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