Sarah Dunkerton Lande, 60BA, 83MBA, is widely admired as a citizen diplomat who has advanced Iowa's reputation around the globe—particularly in the People's Republic of China.
Lande's promotion of people-to-people diplomacy began after graduation with her first trip to China in 1984 with former Iowa Governor Bob Ray's Friendship Force, and later with three other Iowa governors to create new opportunities and understanding. From 1988 to 1998, she served as the first executive director for Iowa Sister States, a nonprofit that builds Iowa's cultural, economic, and educational partnerships with the world. Through the program, Iowa has fostered connections with nine Sister States, including China's Hebei Province.
It was through the Sister States program that Lande invited a Chinese delegation to visit her hometown of Muscatine, Iowa, in 1985. Iowa hospitality left such a lasting impression on visitor Xi Jinping that he returned in 2012— just before assuming the presidency of China. Hosted again by Lande, the man who now leads the most populous nation said to the old friends he had met in 1985 who were gathered in Lande's home in Muscatine, "My impression of America came from you. To me, you are America."
Xi and his delegation also signed many trade, agriculture, tourism, and education agreements during their visit to the state. "Such an important diplomatic trip by the man who leads China would not have been possible except through the commitment and dedication of Sarah to Iowa and our international ties," notes Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, 69BA.
On a global level, Lande has been recognized for her public service. In 2013, she was awarded the title of Honorary Friendship Ambassador by the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries. Last year, she was the organization's guest for its 60th anniversary in Beijing to share the Iowa-Xi Jinping story at the "Gathering of 60 Years Celebration" on China Central Television. Lande also spoke about the value of friendship at the International Sister City Celebration in Washington, DC.
Former U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke has praised Lande for her international outreach, and organizations worldwide have sought her counsel. Adds former Iowa legislator Jean Lloyd-Jones, 71MA, "[Lande's] infectious smile, upbeat energy, and genuine interest in people make her a true citizen diplomat."
Locally, Lande has also proven a goodwill ambassador. In 2013, she helped form the Mayor's Muscatine China Initiative Committee that initiated a sister city relationship between Muscatine and Zhending, China, which has led to educational, commercial, and cultural exchanges. She also supports the International Writers Workshop, the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, University of Iowa International Programs, Hancher, UNESCO City of Literature, and causes related to community building and environmental conservation.
"I think of myself as a citizen of the world," says Lande, who graduated with her bachelor of arts in home economics and a master of business administration. "We have a responsibility to be stewards of the earth and the well-being of its people. A world of friends is a world of peace."
With her passion for cultivating international friendships, Sarah Dunkerton Lande has left an impression that can be felt around the globe.
Lande is a member of the UI Alumni Association's Old Capitol Club and the UI Foundation's Presidents Club.
Since 1963, the University of Iowa has annually recognized accomplished alumni and friends with Distinguished Alumni Awards. Awards are presented in seven categories: Achievement, Service, Hickerson Recognition, Faculty, Staff, Recent Graduate, and Friend of the University.