The Conable Conference in International Studies honors the enduring global legacy of the statesman and public servant, the Hon. Barber B. Conable, Jr.
Barber B. Conable, Jr. was born in Warsaw, New York, on November 2, 1922. Conable was an Eagle Scout and received the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America. He graduated with a BA in History from Cornell University in 1942, where he was president of the Quill and Dagger Society and a member of the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. He enlisted in the Marines and was sent to the Pacific front in World War II, where he learned to speak Japanese and fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima. After the war, he received his law degree from Cornell University Law School in 1948. He later re-enlisted and fought in the Korean War. He married Charlotte Williams in 1952, and they had four children.
In 1962, Conable was elected as a Republican to the New York State Senate. After only one term, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1964 from a Rochester-based district. He was re-elected nine more times. He was known on both sides of the aisle for his honesty and integrity, at one point being voted by his colleagues the "most respected" member of Congress; he refused to accept personal contributions larger than $50. As longtime ranking minority member of the House Ways and Means Committee, one of his signal legislative achievements was a provision in the U.S. tax code that made so-called 401(k) and 403(b) defined-contribution retirement plans possible, and contributions to those plans by both employers and employees tax-deferred, under federal tax law. Conable retired from the House in 1984.
In 1986, President Ronald Reagan appointed him the 7th President of the World Bank Group. Conable was the first career politician to be appointed president of the Bank, and the only one without substantial Wall Street experience. His experience as a legislator proved crucial as he persuaded his former colleagues to almost double Congress's appropriations for the Bank. Conable oversaw major transformations in the structure and role of the bank. He traveled tirelessly to developing nations, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, and redirected the focus of the bank toward development and poverty alleviation (Official World Bank Biography). With the collapse of communism and the Soviet bloc, he oversaw the expansion of the bank into Eastern Europe and Russia. He retired from the World Bank in 1991. He remained active in local and regional affairs until his passing in 2003.
Window on Congress: A Congressional Biography of Barber B. Conable, Jr., by James S. Fleming. (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2004) ISBN 1-58046-128-X.
The Conable Years at the World Bank: Major Policy Addresses of Barber B. Conable, 1986–91, by Barber B. Conable, Jr., (Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 1991) ISBN 0-8213-1901-9.