John D. Scanlan, 79, a former Falls Church City Council member, career Foreign Service Officer, international consultant and former U.S. ambassador to Yugoslavia from 1985 to 1989, died November 20, in Naples, Florida, from injuries suffered in a fall at his residence.
Mr. Scanlan was born and raised in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, and earned his BA (1952) and MA (1955) degrees from the University of Minnesota, where he enrolled on completion of his service in the U.S. Navy from 1945 to 1946. He had a study grant to Turkey and Yugoslavia in 1954 and then was an instructor in the University of Minnesota's Foreign Study Seminars.
After joining the U.S. State Department, he worked as a Intelligence Research Analyst from 1956 to 1958, before being assigned to Moscow in the summer of 1958. Prior to leaving for post, he married Margaret Anne Calvi.
Following Moscow, Mr. Scanlan was next assigned to Warsaw where he served as Cultural Affairs Officer and then Political Officer from 1961 to 1965. After a brief tour in Montevideo, Uruguay, as Political Officer, he returned to Poznan, Poland, where he served as Principal Officer at the American Consulate from 1967 to 1969.
Upon returning to Washington, Mr.Scanlan was assigned as the Senior State Department Representative to the National Military Command Center under the Joint Chiefs at the Pentagon from 1969 to 1971. He then became the head of the office of US-USSR Bilateral Affairs at the State Department from 1971 to 1972. For the third time in his career he was assigned to Poland and served as Political Officer from 1973 to 1975, where he assisted in the State visit of President Gerald R. Ford to Warsaw in 1975.
He returned to Washington to serve as Special Assistant to the Director General of the Foreign Service, after which he was assigned to the U.S. Information Agency as Deputy Director for European Affairs with responsibilities for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe from 1977 to 1979.
Mr. Scanlan became Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, from 1979-1981, serving under Ambassador Lawrence Eagleburger. He was then promoted to Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs, with responsibilities for USSR and Eastern Europe, from 1981-82. President Reagan nominated him to be Ambassador to Poland in 1982 at the time of Martial Law in that country but the Polish Government refused to act on the nomination. While awaiting word from the Polish Government, Mr. Scanlan spent a year as diplomat in residence at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He also served as chairman of the U.S. delegation to the Budapest Cultural Forum Preparatory Conference in March, 1985.
When no answer came from the Polish government, President Reagan named him Ambassador to Yugoslavia in 1985 and he served at the post until 1989.
Mr. Scanlan then served as Deputy Commandant for International Affairs at the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania until his retirement from the Foreign Service in May 1991
Following his retirement from the foreign service in 1991, Mr. Scanlan was employed as the Vice President for Eastern Europe of ICN Pharmaceuticals, Inc, first in Belgrade and then in Washington. From 1992-1993, he took a sabbatcial from ICN, and became foreign affairs advisor to Prime Minister Milan Panic of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia because he sincerely believed that Mr. Panic could offer a peaceful alternative to the Yugoslav people and the Serbian nation. When Panic was forced out of office, Mr. Scanlan resumed his employment with the U.S.-based ICN Pharmaceutical Company owned by Mr. Panic.
An accomplished linguist who spoke fluent Russian, Polish and Serbian, Mr. Scanlan, after his diplomatic career, was active in non-governmental organizations which sought to help with the post-communist transformation of Eastern Europeon. He was a member of the Council of Ethnic Accord, a member of the Kissinger-Sobchak International Action Commission for St. Petersburg, a member of the U.S.-Europe-Poland Action Commission of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and a member of the advisory board of the Central and East European Law Initiative (CEELI) of the American Bar Association. He was also a frequent speaker and panel member at numerous conferences in Washington and throughout United States.
In recognition of his work on behalf of Polish/US relations, he was awarded the Cavalier’s Cross of the Order of Merit by the Polish Government.
Mr. Scanlan was preceded in death by his wife, Peggy, who passed away last year. They lived in the Washington area between overseas assignments and resided for more than ten years in Falls Church, VA, where Mr. Scanlan served on the Falls Church City Council. They later divided their time between homes in the Washington area and Naples, Florida.
Survivors include two sons and two daughters: Kathleen Scanlan of Vienna, Virginia, Malia Scanlan living in Fredericksburg, VA, Michael Scanlan, currently assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, and John Scanlan of Atlanta, Georgia.