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."
In 1963, while stationed in Baghdad during the civil war, Kane remembers what he still thinks of as his closest call. During a truce, Kane went with a friend to buy bread and determine the situation outside the American Embassy. Kane heard a shrill police whistle and was convinced he was about to get shot. He turned to find a young child playing with a police whistle.
"You just had to be prudent," Kane says on his ability to remain safe. Richard S. Welch '51, Kane's friend and classmate, also recruited from Harvard for the CIA, was assassinated in Athens in 1975.
Kane was in Tripoli, Lybia in 1967 during the Six Days War.
"On the fifth of June, the Israeli attack started and we were evacuated to a U.S. Air for base," he says. On June 6th, Arab mobs rose throughout the Middle East, and in Tripoli they began knifing Americans in the streets. All non-essential personnel were required to evacuate. "On the seventh of June, my family got on a plane and boarded for Rome. My happiest moment was seeing them on this plane."
In Tripoli, his friendship with an Egyptian senior official in the Islam Brotherhood, a fundamentalist organization, came in handy. Kane's family had a "much beloved Irish setter dog," and when they were evacuated, entrusted the dog to the official. Kane says he left the safety of the base under the pretense of appraising the situation in the city. "I had another motive--I drove back in to see the dog."
During the early eighties, Kane determined "the learning curve had flattened out" and retired from the CIA at the age of 52. After a 13 week stint at the Harvard Business School, Kane returned to the site of his last CIA post in Lisbon, Portugal to begin consulting. Over the course of fifteen years, Kane advised the prime minister and president of the country--culminating in a knighthood by the president.
Now a Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C., Kane still keeps at the top of his mind the loss he felt in not having the chance to serve his country in World War II.
"I still feel I owe the American people and American system service," he says.