Biography and History

Maurice Pate (1894-1965) was an international civil servant who devoted his career to improving the welfare of children. He was involved in a variety of relief efforts during both world wars and their immediate aftermaths, and was the first Executive Director of UNICEF.

Pate was born on October 14, 1894, in Pender, Nebraska to Richard E. and Rachel Davis Pate. When he was three, his family moved to Denver, Colorado. Pate was the eldest of seven children, three of whom died during infancy. Pate entered Princeton University in 1911 and graduated with a B.S. in 1915. Pate married Jadwiga Monkowska of Poland in 1927. They divorced ten years later after she was unable to acclimate to living in the United States. Pate married Martha B. Lucas, an educator, on October 31, 1961. He had no children.

Immediately after his graduation from Princeton University, Pate obtained employment at the First National Bank in Hartley, Iowa, where his uncle was president. He remained there for a short time before World War I inspired him to volunteer to work with Herbert Hoover's Commission for Relief in Belgium in 1916. Pate worked as a field representative in the county of Tournai, overseeing the distribution of food to Belgians. Pate became close friends with Herbert Hoover and collaborated with him on relief works throughout the rest of his career. After the United States declared war, Pate joined the U.S. Army. He served in France from 1917 to 1919, first with the 29th Engineers and later with the 74th Engineers. He was promoted to the rank of Master Engineer, Senior Grade, in December 1917 and obtained the rank of Second Lieutenant of Engineers in November 1918.

In 1919, after his service in the Army was completed, Pate returned to work for Hoover's Commission in Poland, which was by then named the American Relief Administration. Pate, as Assistant to the Director of the American Relief Administration in Poland, coordinated efforts to provide food and other aid to 1.3 million children. In 1920, after Pate made an initial survey of conditions in Russia, the Administration began food relief operations for millions of Russians as well. Pate remained with the American Relief Administration until its operations ended in 1922.

Pate remained in Poland, working as assistant to the Warsaw manager of the Polish subsidiary of the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey from 1922 to 1927. Pate then operated his own import business in Poland and served as the Warsaw representative of two American banks and one English bank. He returned to the United States in 1935, working in New York as an investment banker and serving as the director of several machine-tool and natural gas firms until 1939.

After Germany's invasion of Poland, Pate returned to relief work, serving as President of the Commission for Polish Relief from 1939 to 1941. The Commission, in which Herbert Hoover was very active, was a privately operated organization that coordinated the purchasing and shipment of supplies to the Polish people. Once the United States entered the war, Pate became Director of Relief to American and Allied Prisoners of War for the American Red Cross. He served in this capacity from 1942 to 1946, coordinating the shipment of $170 million of relief supplies, including food, clothing and medicine, to prisoners of war in Europe and the Far East. In 1946, Pate was selected to be part of Herbert Hoover's World Food Survey, a mission given to Hoover by President Harry S. Truman to organize the means to alleviate worldwide famine conditions. The group visited many countries, and Pate's role was to assess the relief needs of children. The work of the survey and Hoover's subsequent recommendations to Truman led to the United States sponsorship of the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF).

UNICEF was established on December 11, 1946 by the United Nations General Assembly as a three year operation to provide emergency food and supplies to children in countries devastated by the war, primarily in Europe. Pate was selected as the first executive director in 1947. UNICEF provided aid to children based solely on their need, regardless of their nationality, using funds voluntarily contributed by governments, organizations, and individuals. After the three year term was completed, UNICEF was renewed for another three years to help governments in developing countries establish programs to provide basic protection from disease and malnutrition to children and their mothers, addressing the chronically poor conditions for children in those nations. In 1953, UNICEF was established as a permanent organization to continue with its work in aiding governments in establishing health, medical, and educational programs for their nations' children. They also continue to provide emergency aid supplies during crises. At this time, the name was shortened to the United Nations Children's Fund, although the acronym UNICEF was retained. It has become one of the most internationally recognized, and least controversial, of the United Nations' programs.

Pate oversaw the growth and changing mission of UNICEF, remaining its executive director until his death in 1965. He visited nearly all of the 133 countries where UNICEF operated during his tenure as executive director, assessing the needs of children and the existing programs, negotiating with governments, and fundraising. While he was executive director, the number of governments contributing funds to UNICEF grew from 35 in 1951 to 118 in 1965.

Pate received decorations throughout his life for his humanitarian aid work, including awards from the governments of Belgium, Ecuador, France, the Netherlands, and Poland. He received an honorary degree from Denison University in 1956 and Princeton University in 1958. Pate was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize but declined to be considered, insisting that it was the organization of UNICEF, not any one individual, that improved the welfare of the world's children. Pate died on January 19, 1965, at the age of 70. UNICEF was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October 1965.

Source: From the finding aid for MC103

  • Maurice Pate Papers. 1904-1985 (inclusive), 1945-1965 (bulk).

    Call Number: MC103

    Maurice Pate (1894-1965) was an international civil servant who devoted his career to improving the welfare of children. He was involved in a variety of relief efforts during both world wars and their immediate aftermaths, and was the first Executive Director of UNICEF. Pate's papers document his career as a humanitarian and include correspondence, reports, Pate's notes and writings, publications, and photographs, as well as biographical materials and Pate's personal correspondence.

  • Maurice Pate Papers. 1904-1985 (inclusive), 1945-1965 (bulk).

    Call Number: MC103

    Maurice Pate (1894-1965) was an international civil servant who devoted his career to improving the welfare of children. He was involved in a variety of relief efforts during both world wars and their immediate aftermaths, and was the first Executive Director of UNICEF. Pate's papers document his career as a humanitarian and include correspondence, reports, Pate's notes and writings, publications, and photographs, as well as biographical materials and Pate's personal correspondence.