World Affairs Council (Gulf Coast/Houston) Records collection consists of documents relating to the Gulf Coast Council on Foreign Affairs, Gulf Coast World Affairs Council, and Houston World Affairs Council. In 1976, fourteen individuals founded Gulf Coast Council on Foreign Affairs as a result of their participation in College of the Mainland’s annual, eight-week Great Decisions foreign policy study-discussion program. Organization by-laws designed an organization that was self-sustaining through membership dues and fundraising.
Programs developed by the evolving organization encouraged public awareness of global conditions involving international political, economic, and military issues and introduced participants to the diversity of cultures around the world. It was the Council’s policy to provide information without assuming particular positions, operating from the premise that every citizen in a democratic society has the right and perhaps an obligation to be informed. Robert Handy served as the first Board Chairman, then functioned as the Council’s Executive Director. In 1984, when Handy resigned his administrative role with the Council to assume the position of Executive Director of the Houston World Trade Association, the Council had hundreds of members with chapters in Houston, Clear Lake, Lake Jackson and Galveston.
In 1984, the organization’s name changed to Gulf Coast World Affairs Council, and leadership moved to the Center for International Studies at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. The Center’s Director William J. Cunningham, assumed the role of Executive Director of the Council.
During 1987-1988, the organization’s name changed again to Houston World Affairs Council. Later, these steps led to formation of the World Affairs Council of Houston, an organization still active and working to promote effective communication in a global community.
Records in this collection reflect the formative years of an organization devoted to promoting global understanding among local citizens, designing educational experiences locally as well as abroad, and creating opportunities for exchange of information in an international contexts.