Peter H. Thormann, 83, an economist and retired Foreign Service officer, died on August 16, 2021, at Galloway Ridge at Fearrington in Pittsboro, North Carolina. Born in 1938 in Munich, Germany, Mr. Thormann was nine months old when he and his parents fled the Nazi regime and arrived as refugees in the United States. Mr. Thormann spent his childhood in the Boston area. He attended the Boston Latin School for three years until his family moved to the suburb of Newton, where he graduated from Newton High School in 1955. Mr. Thormann earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Brandeis University in 1959 followed by an MBA in industrial relations at the University of California at Berkeley in 1961. While completing doctoral work in economics at the University of Minnesota, he met and married his wife, Mary. In 1966, he accepted a permanent position in his field at the International Labor Organization, in Geneva, Switzerland.
In 1973, he was recruited to USAID and posted to Washington D.C. He served as an adviser to the Program and Policy Coordination Bureau on employment policy and science and technology programs, then as Principal Adviser for Technical Resources for the Asia Bureau. In 1983, he joined the Foreign Service. He was posted twice to New Delhi, India, for nine years, first as Program Economist and then as Director, Office of Program Development and Economic Growth. He was recognized for his leadership and innovation in developing the Program for Advancement of Commercial Technology (PACT) in India, helping establish the Indian stock exchange, and creating the roadmap for restarting the economic growth program suspended by sanctions due to the nuclear test in 1998. In Thailand, where he was posted from 1988 to 1992, he served as Program Economist and later Director of the Program Office. He helped design and manage the financial markets development program and the launch of a vibrant venture capital industry.
From 1992 to 1996, headquartered in Washington D.C., he was Supervisory Program Economist and Supervisory Country Development Officer for the Horn of Africa, East Africa Desk, and then Chief, Strategic Analysis Division with the Africa Bureau. His career included Acting USAID Mission Director to Sri Lanka, Somalia (out of Nairobi), and India, and other short-term assignments in over 25 countries. Following his retirement in 2001 as Chief Economist for USAID’s Africa Bureau, based out of Washington D.C., he provided services as a consultant to USAID overseas missions and firms working with USAID, such as The Mitchell Group, Inc. Relocating to North Carolina in 2010, as part of the Fearrington Village community, Mr. Thormann started an economics discussion group that meets on a regular basis to discuss current domestic and international political and economic issues. The group continues to this day though diminished by his absence. Known for his kindness, sense of humor and gentle demeanor, he was a dedicated family man and friend. His interest in people, cultures, and countries improved many lives around the world. Not one to shy from challenges, he lived his life to the fullest.
In addition to his wife of 55 years, Mary, and their son Mark (Beth Thormann) and daughter Monique (Marcus Courtney), Mr. Thormann is survived by a daughter, Gabrielle, from his first marriage, as well as his brother Michael and sister Joan. A celebration of life will be announced later. Expressions of sympathy can be made to the Diversity Scholarships fund at Brandeis University via giving.brandeis.edu/diversity.