by Jacki Swearingen '73
From an early age Richard Golob ’73 felt a connection to the United Nations, housed in the magnificent steel and glass building that his mother took him frequently to visit from their home in the Bronx. Later, when his family moved to Scarsdale, she founded the local United Nations club and brought speakers on international affairs to talk to Golob and his friends. Then there was the fact that his father bore an uncanny resemblance to Dag Hammarskjold, the UN’s second Secretary General.
“So every morning the Secretary General would be telling me to brush my teeth properly,” Golob recalled in a recent interview for the ClassACT HR73 bulletin. “That kind of got me interested in the UN at an early age. As a person I’ve always been interested in promoting diversity and equality and tolerance as well as peace and freedom.” he added.
Those early influences have led Golob to a lifelong commitment to advancing the work of the 77-year-old multinational organization charged with helping to keep the peace, aiding refugees in far-flung conflict zones, and pushing to avert climate disaster. Over several decades Golob has focused his support of the UN on helping to lead the United Nations Association of Greater Boston (UNAGB), a nonprofit dedicated to educating, inspiring and engaging students and adult members of the Boston community around issues critical to the mission of the United Nations. Golob served as its president from 2006 to 2017 and currently is a board member of UNAGB, one of ClassACT HR73’s oldest Bridges.
“At UNAGB we understand that in order to solve those global issues, you need to take action at the local level,” Golob said. The UNAGB brings the global and the local together through programs that aim to educate Boston students as well as through partnerships with local non- profits. UNAGB also “has the potential over time using digital technology to reach out to more and more people outside of the Boston area,” Golob said.
Creating “global citizens” both young and old is at the heart of UNAGB’s mission. “It means a person who is dedicated to promoting a sustainable, just and peaceful world,” Golob explained. A global citizen has “the skills of mutual respect and collaboration and nonviolent, peaceful conflict resolution.” UNAGB promotes those qualities through community events such as the U.N. Perspective Series, the Global Women’s Forum, and the UN Day Luncheon.
U.S. Secretary of Labor and Former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Ban Ki-Moon, and Model UN Students in Boston
Ted Turner, the founder of CNN and the UN Foundation; Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland and the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; and Ban Ki-moon, the former UN Secretary General have all spoken at past UNAGB gatherings.
Ban Ki-Moon and Richard Golob '73
UNAGB begins nurturing global citizenship in students as young as middle school with its Model United Nations program. More than 4,000 students in more than 75 schools throughout the Boston area participate each year in ways such as using UNAGB curricula in their classrooms to learn about international affairs and UN activities. Those who aspire to take part in UNAGB’s annual Model UN Conferences can go on to become delegates from assigned Countries. They have the chance to master knowledge about their nation’s history and current involvement with the United Nations, which they can draw upon when they meet with students representing other countries at the Model UN Conference in the spring.
Richard Golob '73 and Lucia Lovison-Golob
“The Model UN program is especially important in building communications, collaboration, negotiation, critical thinking skills and [the ability] to resolve issues the peaceful, nonviolent way,” Golob said. At a time when intolerance and bullying have become entrenched in schools, role playing as diplomats required to hit on a compromise that satisfies all parties is an exercise that helps to overcome cruelty and prejudice. Students quickly discover that intimidation and name-calling have no place in a community patterned after the best qualities and aspirations of the United Nations.
In 2021 students from 84 schools took part in conferences that led up to the UNAGB Model United Nations that fall. To assume the role of diplomats, they researched the background of their assigned country and then determined the positions that country would take in the Model United Nations and committee debates. They began learning to let go of their personal biases and instead to adopt the viewpoints of the countries they represented. Marshaling those insights, they then had to work out compromises with other student diplomats who were also trying to act for the countries UNAGB assigned them.
“It’s very much an opportunity for young people to take on the perspectives outside their box,” said Golob. “And to think in ways that they might not normally think and understand the perspectives of people that they might not normally interact with. I’;s a great way to build a sense of understanding about the global community, about the differences that separate us and the ways in which we have to work together as a planet.”
Since the start of the Model UN program, UNAGB has striven to include students in Boston’s urban middle schools and high schools. “It has been a great way to lift the horizons of these young people beyond their local areas and to make them understand that there’s a big world out there,” Golob said. A number of those graduates have gone on to careers in international organizations.
Each year at the Harvard Business School and the MIT Sloan School of Management, the United Nations Association of Greater Boston holds multiple sessions of the Summer Institute in Global Leadership. Students from around the world enroll in courses taught by UNAGB staff and college interns on topics such as climate resilience, human rights and international security. By employing the Model UN methods of role playing and consensus building, the institute instructors teach leadership skills, critical thinking and an understanding of key global challenges. UNAGB adult members– experts in fields such as global health, and diplomats from the Boston Consular Corps–come to speak about their experiences in international agencies, NGOs and diplomacy. While the tuition for these week-long sessions provides funds to sustain UNAGB’s activities throughout the year, the nonprofit is still able to offer scholarships to young people who could not afford to attend without financial aid.
Since the establishment of the United Nations in October 1945, United Nations associations like the one Golob’s mother founded in Scarsdale have taken root around the world. The United Nations Association of Greater Boston, which has existed for more than sixty years, has emerged as one of the leading chapters not only because of its Model UN programs but also because of its educational outreach to the larger Boston community. Originally centered around the interests of a founding group of former diplomats, professors and experts who had spent their careers in multinational organizations, the UNAGB over the years has broadened its focus and adapted to the changing concerns of the United Nations. In the UNAGB’s infancy those preoccupations mirrored the fears and strategies of the Cold War. Now the United Nations member states must deal not only with a war in Ukraine but also with a planet facing the existential crisis of climate change.
When all the United Nation member states adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, the UNAGB set out to educate a wide audience through their UN Perspective series. Over the last year experts from MIT, Oxfam, and the government of Uganda have joined Perspective Series discussions about Affordable Energy, Gender Equality, and Clean Water and Sanitation. When the UNAGB was forced to move educational efforts online during the COVID pandemic, the recorded forums began to reach a worldwide audience.
To give this audience an understanding of current conditions and positive actions not only globally but also locally, UNAGB now offers a “SDG Action Corner” to measure Boston’s progress toward achieving those goals. For each of the 17 SDGs, the website lists local non-profits with volunteer opportunities and tracks legislative actions on a state and national level.
Boston experts in epidemiology and public health have volunteered to educate the UNAGB audience about Sustainability Development Goals like “Good Health and Well Being.” In 2007 UNAGB presented a Leadership Award to Dr. Barry R. Bloom, the former dean of the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, who has worked for decades with the World Health Organization on fighting diseases like leprosy and tuberculosis. “We’ve had many people who have held prominent roles in the WHO and other international agencies, and so in that sense, the Boston community has been very much connected to the UN through its specialized agencies,” Golob explained.
Now following the lead of the United Nations, the UNAGB is reaching out to Boston business leaders to help realize these Sustainable Development Goals. In recent years the United Nations has devised compacts for corporations based on the realization that sustainability challenges will be solved only by involving the business community. In a similar spirit, the UNAGB tries to make Boston corporations aware of climate and sustainability crises along with UN efforts. “Hopefully through relationships with us, people within those corporations become more sensitized” and more willing to implement social governance programs, Golob said.
Richard Golob has worked for decades in the private sector to bring innovations in data sciences and digital transformation to the healthcare and life-sciences sectors. He is currently co founder and CEO of Quantori, a Cambridge-based digital services provider for the life-sciences sector and healthcare industries. The international security scenarios that UNAGB had long discussed took on added meaning last March when Russian forces invaded Ukraine. Quantori had its primary development centers in St. Petersburg and Voronezh, Russia where the company employed more than 600 software engineers and other professionals. “We had to do a major airlift of those people to Armenia and Georgia in order to continue working for our clients,” he said.
“We had been operating in Russia for over 20 years and my partners and I, as well as others leading similar companies to ours, had basically helped to globalize the Russian software engineering industry and had brought all of these Russian software engineers and mathematicians and scientists into close contact with the West and with the great pharmaceutical companies and life-science companies. And then in one day Putin destroyed all of it,” he added.
Early in his life Richard Golob wanted to be an explorer. By the time he arrived in Harvard Yard in 1969, he had set his sights on attaining a biochemistry degree. The times were turbulent, however, raising questions about peace and justice that persist today. He left Lowell House and Harvard during his junior year, returning six years later and graduating in 1978. Entering the nascent field of environmental services, he went on to work with United Nations agencies like the UN Environment Programme, the UN Disaster Relief Organization, and the International Maritime Organization. At the age of 50 Golob reinvented himself by entering the realm of software outsourcing and life science informatics and co-founded GGA Software Services, which was later acquired by EPAM Systems. Around that time as well a former member of the UN Disaster Relief Organization, also a Harvard alumnus, reached out to Golob and got him interested in joining the UNAGB.
“All of these areas, environmental consulting and software outsourcing have involved international components and so my involvement with the United Nations Association of Greater Boston is in a sense an outgrowth of not only what my mother’s and father’s impact was on me, but also of my entire professional career too,” he concluded. In the years prior to joining UNAGB, Golob played a key role in many international projects, including the design and construction of the Holocaust Memorial Park in Puchovichi, Belarus; the implementation of a pilot rural electrification project outside Dhaka, Bangladesh which used biogas from cow dung as the energy source; and the preparation of an environmental damage claim for the government of Mozambique following a tanker spill off the Mozambican coast.
Last year the UNAGB secured a space at MIT’s Sloan School with the aid of faculty member and ClassACT HR73 board member Leigh Hafrey. The UNAGB Bridge is now eager for more involvement with ClassACT members who might, for example, speak at events like the Perspective Series. Those classmates who are academics, retired public servants, and business people can serve as a great resource, Golob said, particularly those who can help to educate the wider community about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Participating in UNAGB activities like the upcoming International Women’s Day Forum “Bridging the Digital Gender Divide” on March 7th can also help ClassACT members connect with UNAGB’s initiatives. Classmates with ties to schools can recommend the Model UN program to them, while classmates with grandchildren in middle school or high school can encourage them to participate in UNAGB’s Summer Institute in Global Leadership to learn how to become global citizens. Finally, ClassACT HR73 members can donate to the United Nations Association of Greater Boston to support the organization’s mission and work.
Golob’s work with the UNAGB has only deepened his admiration for an organization whose austere and elegant building mesmerized a small boy from the Bronx. “I’m a big believer in the United Nations. I think it’s in an institution that if it did not exist, it would have to be created,” he said, acknowledging that issues at the Security Council and General Assembly level still have to be resolved. But even with its challenges, the United Nations gives him hope for the future.
“For the members of our class growing up, we were all part of the peace, love and happiness generation. And if we think about an international institution that promotes those ideals, I cannot think of one other than the United Nations that does it better.”