Miami mourns the loss of John E. Dolibois

Honors and Awards

Among his many recognitions and honors:

•    He was honored with the Silver Beaver Award, Scouting’s highest award for service to boyhood, in 1957 and was named a Distinguished Eagle Scout in 1972.

•    In recognition of his military service and his work in international education, including the establishment of Miami’s European center, the Government of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg March 31, 1971, decorated him as Officer in the Grand Ducal Order of the Crown of Oak.

•    In 1976 he received Luxembourg’s decoration of Commander in the Order of Merit, recognizing his work on behalf of international good will and his services to international education as a member of the 12-person Board of Foreign Scholarships, which administers the Fulbright Exchange program.

•    In 1977 he was awarded Miami’s Benjamin Harrison Medallion. Named for the 1852 Miami graduate who became U.S. president, the medallion is presented to faculty and staff who have made outstanding national contributions to education.

•    He received an honorary degree from Miami in 1984.

•    In 1987 the grand duke of Luxembourg awarded him the Cross of the Grand Ducal Order of the Crown of Oak, Luxembourg’s highest decoration.

•    He was inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame Nov. 6, 1997.

•    In 2002 he was awarded the first Michael J. Colligan History Prize at Miami University Hamilton for making the appreciation and study of history accessible and enriching for the community and also that year, Miami University Hamilton inaugurated the John E. Dolibois History Prize.

John Dolibos lights up a crowd during a presentation.

John Dolibois lights up a crowd during a presentation.

John E. Dolibois, former U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg and last American survivor of a team that interrogated top-ranking Nazis for the Nuremberg Trials, died Friday, May 2, at his home in Cincinnati. He was 95.

Miami University’s vice president emeritus for university relations, Dolibois (pronounced DOLL-uh-boy) was born Dec. 4, 1918, in Luxembourg. In 1931 at the age of 12, he immigrated with his father to the United States on July 4, joining John’s sister, Marie, who was living in Akron.

He graduated from Akron North High School as president and valedictorian of his senior class and earned a four-year scholarship to Miami University.

He became involved in Boy Scouts as soon as he arrived in America and credited the Scouts for helping him adjust to a “foreign” environment. An Eagle Scout, he organized Oxford’s first official Boy Scout troop as an undergraduate in 1938.

He majored in psychology at Miami, graduating with honors in 1942. While at Miami, he was president of the alpha chapter of Beta Theta Pi and a member of several honoraries including Phi Beta Kappa. He became a U.S. citizen his junior year in 1941 and married Winifred “Winnie” Englehart (Miami ’42) during their senior year at Miami.

He took a job at Procter & Gamble as an industrial engineer. When drafted later in 1942, he pointed out that he was fluent in German.

He was eventually commissioned a lieutenant in the cavalry and transferred to a military intelligence center in Camp Ritchie, Maryland.

In March 1945 Dolibois became a member of the five-member Army Intelligence team that interrogated the highest-ranking Nazi war criminals after the fall of the Third Reich, leading up to the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials. This included Hermann Goering, credited as the architect of the Nazi industrial machine and second in command under Adolf Hitler.

After six months of interaction, he knew some of Hitler’s most trusted and senior-deputies well. When the defendants went to Nuremberg, Dolibois followed, interpreting their responses to Rorschach inkblot tests given by an Army psychiatrist.

After the war, Dolibois, who left the Army as a captain, returned to his job at Procter & Gamble until May 1, 1947, when he became Miami University’s first full-time alumni secretary. He later became the first director of alumni affairs and development and, in 1966, first vice president for development and alumni affairs. In July 1981 he was named vice president for university relations, overseeing the news and publication offices as well as public relations, development and alumni programs.

“John Dolibois was one of Miami's finest alumni,” said Miami President David Hodge. “He is the classic immigrant success story who served his adopted country with distinction in a unique role in the Nuremberg trials and later as ambassador to Luxembourg.  A man of deep humanity, he was a master storyteller who had an incredible memory to draw from.  He was passionate about Miami, serving the university in a formal role and for many years afterward as one of our most ardent ambassadors.  We are deeply saddened by his passing, yet filled with the joy of the friendship we enjoyed.  Truly a remarkable human being.”

Among many accomplishments at Miami, he helped establish a study abroad program in Luxembourg in 1968. The Luxembourg center was renamed the Miami University John E. Dolibois European Center in 1987.

He organized the university’s first fundraising campaign, for $14 million, from 1978-1981, which helped raise funds to build the university’s art museum, Marcum conference center and Yager football stadium and to increase the number of scholarships.

After 34 years at his alma mater, he retired so that he could represent the United States as ambassador to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg 1981-1985. In June 1981 he told the Associated Press that his nomination was the capstone of his career.

During his ambassadorial tenure, the 999-square-mile country of 365,000 was visited by Vice President George Bush, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, Secretary of State George Schulz and Gen. Alexander Haig.

In October 2003, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution naming the American embassy residence in Luxembourg the Dolibois House.

He and wife Winnie returned to Oxford in 1985 to retire. Until his death, Dolibois was a frequent speaker to students and other groups about his experiences surrounding the Nuremberg Trials.

John was preceded in death by his wife of 67 years, Winifred “Winnie” Englehart Dolibois (Miami ’42), in 2009 and by their son, Brian Charles Dolibois (Miami ’80). Survivors include sons who are also Miami graduates, John Michael Dolibois ’66 (Alison) of Oconto Fall, Wis., and Robert Joseph Dolibois ’69 (Susan) of Arlington, Va., eight grandchildren and other family members.  

A public memorial service will be held 11 a.m. Saturday, May 24, in the Oxford Presbyterian Church, 101 N. Main Street.

Burial services are being conducted by Ogle and Paul R. Young Funeral Home in Oxford.  Memorial donations may be made to the Miami University Fund or the Miami University European Campus Fund, c/o Miami University Foundation, Murstein Alumni Center, 725 E. Chestnut Street, Oxford, 45056; or the Oxford Presbyterian Church, 101 N. Main St., Oxford, 45056; or the Beta Theta Pi Foundation, 5134 Bonham Rd, Oxford, OH 45056.