U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon: Who Is Elizabeth Holzhall Richard?

Sunday, August 28, 2016
Elizabeth Richard

Elizabeth Mary Holzhall Richard, a career member of the Foreign Service, took over as Ambassador to Lebanon on July 11, 2016. It’s the first such posting for Holzhall Richard, who has spent much of her career in the Middle East.


Holzhall Richard was born in Hammond, Ind., where her father, Vern, was president of the Mercantile National Bank and her mother, Mary, was a travel agent. Holzhall Richard says she was bitten by the travel bug as a student at Kenwood Elementary School in Hammond. She attended Elizabeth Seton High School just across the state line in South Holland, Ill., working in a pharmacy during that period and graduating in 1977. She went on to earn a B.A. and a J.D. at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and practiced admiralty law for a while after graduation. However, one of her law professors had urged her to take the Foreign Service exam and she joined the State Department in 1986.


Holzhall Richard’s first day on the job was an eventful one: She met Christopher Richard, who was also just beginning his career. Two years later, he became her husband.


Her early assignments included being a consular officer in Guayaquil, Ecuador, a watch

officer at the State Department operations center, and rotational officer at the U.S. embassy in Singapore.


Beginning in 1993, Holzhall Richard served as the department’s desk officer for Czechoslovakia. The following year she was sent to Bangkok as special assistant to the Ambassador to Thailand. In 1997, Holzhall Richard went to Rome, first as an exchange officer in the Italian Foreign Ministry, then as Balkans officer in the U.S. embassy.


She returned to Washington in 2002 as special assistant to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, where she worked on non-proliferation. The next year, Holzhall Richard was deputy to the Ambassador At Large for War Crimes Issues, where she worked on tribunals for Guantanamo prisoners.


In 2005, she was made deputy director in the Office of Asia, Africa and Europe in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement. She continued in that field when she was sent to Kabul, Afghanistan in 2006 as director of counter-narcotics, law enforcement and rule of law programs there. After that assignment, she took time to earn an M.S. at the National War College in 2008.


Later that year, Holzhall Richard was back in South Asia as border coordinator at the embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. In 2010, she was made Deputy Chief of Mission in Sana’a, Yemen, and was brought home in 2013 to serve as Deputy Assistant Secretary for U.S. assistance to the Middle East, a post she held until going to Beirut.


Holzhall Richard began her ambassadorial career in a bit of limbo. Lebanon had no president when she began her tenure and as such could officially be only chargé d’affaires until she could present her credentials to the head of state.


Holzhall Richard speaks Italian, Spanish, French and Thai. Her husband, who also made a career of the Foreign Service, died in 2015.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

New Ambassador Sets Sights on Managing Success (by Nancy Coltun Webster, Post-Tribune)

Official Announcement


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