When Edward R.M. Kane `51 arrived at Harvard in the fall of 1947, he had never traveled further from Massachusetts than New York City. Fifty years later, Kane has spent the majority of his life living in the world's most unstable political terrain.
During his thirty one years working for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA),Kane has lived in Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Senegal, Algeria, and most-recently Portugal, his only non-Muslim post. After returning to private life in Portugal, Kane acted as a security adviser to the Portugese government, which resulted in a knighthood of the Order of Prince Henry the Navigator.
Kane, who claims he never really felt his life was in danger during his CIA years, says Harvard frightened him when he first arrived. Though valedictorian of his high school class, Kane, a scholarship winner from a public school in Rockland, a town of 8800 found himself unprepared for Harvard's academic rigor. "The breakdown was 50% of private school and 50% public school," Kane remembers. "But I found that the private school gradates were so far ahead of me that I realized I was going to have to work very hard in order to maintain my scholarship."
Kane, a government concentrator with a specialty in international law, took a variety of language classes at Harvard, from a semester in advanced French to Spanish to one semester of Welsh. Since college, Kane has gained Arabic, Turkish, and Portugese.
But the first Fulbright scholar at the University of Istanbul considers Harvard the "happiest four years of my life."
As part of his scholarship component, Kane worked for the Harvard Mail Service and spent his first year working at the Union dining hall, where he "made great friends slopping out stuff on trays."
Kane, who was Circulation manager on the Crimson Business Staff from 50-51, remembers the Crimson as a "sort of center of social life," where, "at the end of the day, you'd drop in and have a beer and chat." One day while selling subscriptions, Kane met his wife, Phyllis Jackson '54, who was then a sophomore at Radcliffe. She says, "I told him I wouldn't buy a subscription unless I knew the editorial policy of the newspaper. We then found we were interested in a lot of the same things."
The two married in 1952, just shortly after the close of Kane's year as a Fulbright scholar.
Although a member of the Young Republicans Club, politics did not play a great part in Kane's undergraduate years, with one major exception.
Walking past Cronin's bar with friends, Kane found the Mass. Governor's car still running.
"We took the governor's car two blocks and realized it was not a very bright thing to do and then parked it three blocks away."
Kane, who applied for a Fulbright scholarship to Turkey--the "furthest place I could apply to,"--was tapped for a job with the CIA by a senior professor, one of the agency's many consultants on Harvard's campus. In 1951, about 5 percent of the graduating class was recruited for employment with the CIA.
"During the spring of 1951, CIA recruiters came on the campus and made all sorts of interviews. [Our class] had escaped service in the second world war and we had a little built of a guilt complex," Kane says. "When Uncle Sam came and pointed his finger, we just said yes." Kane, who went on to be officer in command in Dakar, Algiers and Lisbon, says he took the job out of a commitment to civic duty. An added perk was the starting $33,000 salary, "more money than I ever could have imagined."
Of the posts across North Africa and the Middle East, Kane's wife says, "We weren't living your typical suburban life."
"They were difficult posts and we were in unsettled times," she adds. "We went through several war periods and sudden evacuations."