Grand Valley alumnus John Beyrle was the U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria from 2005-2012. He credits his time at Grand Valley with inspiring him to travel the world.
"Grand Valley opened up a whole world for me," Beyrle said. "When I came to Grand Valley, I met a whole range of professors -- these were people who had traveled a lot and encouraged me to get out and use the languages I was learning there, not just in an academic sense, to become a teacher or a linguist, but to actually travel in the countries. They probably inspired me to take up a diplomatic career, which is sort of the ultimate practical way that you can use the languages that you're learning." He speaks Bulgarian, Russian, French, German, and Czech.
Beyrle graduated from Grand Valley in 1975 with a French major and German minor. He has remained close to Grand Valley through the years. He was the winter commencement speaker in 1997, and has met with Grand Valley students visiting Moscow on a trip with professor Christine Rydel.
"It just opened a huge door to the outside world to me," said Beyrle of his Grand Valley education. "I went through that door and I've been traveling ever since."
Beyrle was a career member of the senior Foreign Service. He joined in 1983 and specialized in Eastern Europe. He was deputy chief of mission in Moscow. Beyrle also served as counselor for political and economic affairs at the US embassy in Prague. Beyrle first served in Bulgaria 1986-87 as a member of the Foreign Service.
"It's a country that's known to me, but it certainly was a lot different when it was a member of the Warsaw Pact under a Communist-led government than it is now as a fully sovereign and independent nation," Beyrle said. He noted that Bulgaria recently became a member of NATO and is on track to join the European Union.
"It's a beautiful nation in terms of nature and geography. It's a mountainous place which also has a beautiful seacoast," Beyrle said. "It's a wonderful country -- very good wine, grows a lot of fruits and vegetables. It's becoming very prosperous."
Beyrle is married to Jocelyn Greene, also a Foreign Service Officer. They have two daughters, Alison and Caroline.