Michael E. Sterner

Deceased: 15 February 2023

Under: Obituary
Michael E. Sterner

Ambassador Michael E. Sterner died at the age of 94 on February 15, 2023, in Washington, D.C. He suffered a stroke in late December 2022, from which he never fully recovered.

Michael Sterner was a career United States diplomat for 25 years. Following his retirement from government service in 1981, he was a partner of The IRC Group, a Washington, D.C. based international consulting company. Except for overseas posts, he lived in the Cathedral Heights area of Washington, D.C. for most of his life.

From 1977 until his retirement, Ambassador Sterner was a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, with special responsibilities for Middle East negotiations.

He participated in the negotiations leading up to Camp David, as well as in the Egypt-Israel peace treaty negotiations and in talks to establish autonomy for the West Bank and Gaza. His last assignment was to head the U.S. negotiation team that successfully concluded the agreement to establish a multinational peacekeeping force in Sinai, which he recounted as one of his most gratifying achievements.

Mr. Sterner served as ambassador to the United Arab Emirates from 1974 to 1976. Prior to that, he had assignments in Aden, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt. He served on the Egypt, Arabian Peninsula and Arab-Israel desks in Washington, and he attended the National War College from 1969 to 1970.

He was appointed the Director of Egyptian Affairs in 1970, and in 1973, he was also appointed to be a member of the U.S. delegation to the Geneva Middle East Peace Conference.

Ambassador Sterner received the Wilbur J. Carr Award from Secretary Haig in 1981, "in appreciation for a distinguished career of creative contribution to American Foreign Policy." He was a member of the Middle East Institute and the Council on Foreign Relations. Ambassador Sterner was also the author of numerous articles discussing international affairs and the Middle East.

Later in life, he also served as a mediator for the District of Columbia Superior Court and as an arbitrator for the DC Bar.

Michael Sterner was born in 1928, the only son of Harold and Leonie Sterner, and he grew up splitting time between New York City and California. He attended St. George's School in Rhode Island before going to Harvard University, where he graduated in 1951 with a B.A. in Government. After college, he worked for Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco) in Saudi Arabia from 1951 to 1953, and he also served in the U.S. Army before entering the Foreign Service in 1956.

He was a tennis player, loved sailing and was an accomplished cabinet maker and woodworker. He played backgammon and cards with family and friends throughout his life. He was also an avid reader and greatly valued the arts.

Michael Sterner was married to Courtenay R. Sterner, whom he loved for 58 years until her death in 2015. He is survived by two adult children, his loving daughter and son, Lucian and his two grandchildren, William and Charlotte.

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