Anne W. Patterson (1949–)

Anne W. Patterson was a longtime member of the United States Foreign Service. Over the course of a distinguished career, she served in numerous diplomatic posts, including a lengthy term as interim U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She was promoted to career ambassador, the highest rank in the career Foreign Service, in 2008.

Anne Woods was born on October 4, 1949, in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) to John Davis Woods and Carolyn Ackley Woods. She has one brother. She grew up in Fort Smith and attended the Hockaday School in Dallas, Texas, before enrolling at Wellesley College, from which she graduated in 1971 with a BA in economics. She attended graduate school at the University of North Carolina but had not earned a degree by the time she left in 1973 to enter the Foreign Service. She married David R. Patterson, another Foreign Service officer, and the couple had two sons.

Following an initial assignment as an economic officer, Anne Patterson undertook a range of economic and political assignments, including in the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs.

Patterson’s diplomatic postings included U.S. ambassador to El Salvador from 1997 to 2000, Colombia from 2000 to 2003, Pakistan from 2007 to 2010, and Egypt from 2011 to 2013. In August 2004, she assumed the position of Deputy U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, becoming acting Permanent Representative on January 20, 2005, upon the resignation of John Danforth. Patterson’s tenure as the interim U.S. ambassador ran until August 2005, considerably longer than anticipated due to controversy surrounding the confirmation of John R. Bolton.

Patterson also served in a number of State Department posts, including economic officer and counselor, Saudi Arabia, from 1984 to 1988; political counselor, U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, from 1988 to 1991; director for the Andean countries from 1991 to 1993; deputy assistant secretary for Inter-American Affairs from 1993 to 1996; deputy inspector general from 2003 to 2004; assistant secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement from 2005 until 2007; and assistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs from 2013 to 2017.

Patterson, who retired from the Foreign Service just prior to President Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017, was under consideration for the post of undersecretary of defense for policy under Secretary of Defense James Mattis. However, Arkansas senator Tom Cotton reportedly raised objections, expressing concerns based upon her tenure as ambassador to Egypt during the contentious times when leadership in Egypt shifted and the new Egyptian leaders had ties with the Muslim Brotherhood. Patterson was seen as suspect in the eyes of Cotton, Texas senator Ted Cruz, and other conservatives, and the administration opted to withdraw the appointment and avoid a confirmation battle.

Patterson received numerous honors and recognition. In 2008, she was promoted to the rank of career ambassador, the highest rank in the Foreign Service. In both 2008 and 2010, she was the recipient of the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award. She was awarded the Ryan Crocker Award for Expeditionary Diplomacy in 2010, and Foreign Policy magazine included her on its list of the Top 100 Global Thinkers in 2011.

Despite her official retirement, Patterson remained a recognized authority on international affairs and was named to the Commission on National Defense Strategy, a body authorized in 2017 and empowered to review the U.S. national defense policy, including consideration of U.S. enemies abroad, the size and make-up of the American military, and how the defense budget is spent. The commission seeks to develop recommendations that will be presented to the president.

For additional information:
“Anne W. Patterson, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.” United States House of Representatives. (accessed February 25, 2020).

“Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs: Who Is Anne Patterson?”, September 7, 2013. (accessed February 25, 2020).

Landler, Mark. “Ambassador Becomes Focus of Egyptians’ Mistrust of U.S.” New York Times, July 3, 2013. Online at (accessed February 25, 2020).

Rozsa, Matthew. “Defense Secretary James Mattis Just Learned the White House Doesn’t Have His Back When It Comes to Choosing Staffers.” Salon, March 14, 2017. (accessed February 25, 2020).

William H. Pruden III
Ravenscroft School


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