Washington D.C. – The International Republican Institute (IRI) is saddened to announce the passing of Judy Van Rest, Executive Vice President since 2004 and founder of IRI’s Women’s Democracy Network (WDN).  She also served as IRI’s Regional Director for the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) programs from 1994 to 2001. 

“Judy was an inspiration to everyone in the IRI family and a powerful voice for those struggling to live a life of dignity free from political oppression,” said Daniel Twining, IRI President.  “Her lifelong dedication to democratic progress and women’s empowerment will continue to resonate around the world.  Judy’s passion for equipping and empowering women to participate in the civic and political life of their countries was an animating force throughout her career.  She was a champion of liberty for all people, and she will be missed.” 

In her time as Executive Vice President, IRI became a global leader in promoting good governance, the empowerment of women and youth, political party strengthening, and free and fair elections.  In 2006, Judy founded IRI’s Women’s Democracy Network, which has worked with thousands of women in 80 countries – empowering them to participate in the political process and equipping them with the skills to assume leadership roles.  Judy also oversaw IRI’s Freedom Award Celebration, which honors individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to the cause of liberty, often under the most difficult circumstances.  

In addition to working at IRI, Judy was a member of the Women’s Initiative Policy Advisory Council at the George W. Bush Institute and served on the boards of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University and the United States Institute of Peace.  From 2003-4, she served as Senior Advisor for Governance and Director of the Office of Democratic Initiatives for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, Iraq. In the early 2000s, Judy served as Regional Director for Europe, the Mediterranean, and Asia at the Peace Corps. 

“Judy was a true public servant who dedicated her life to creating a more just, free, and democratic world,” said IRI Chairman Dan Sullivan. “Her work will live on, particularly in helping women around the world achieve a greater participation in the political process and civil society.  Julie and I are deeply saddened and extend our condolences to Judy’s family and friends, the IRI team, and the literally thousands of people at home and abroad who she positively impacted.”  

Earlier in her career, Judy served as Chief of Staff in the U.S. Office of Personnel Management from 1989 through 1992 and held management positions at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Smithsonian Institution, and the Republican National Committee. She was Deputy to the Special Assistant to the President for White House Intergovernmental Affairs in 1981. 

“Those who have known Judy since the 1980’s know who she was then and who she remained throughout her entire life – a woman of deep concern for others with creative ideas about how to serve others with a sensitivity about what might be their challenges,” said IRI board member Connie Newman.  “At all times Judy acted with integrity.  She has been a role model for so many and will be deeply missed but never forgotten.”

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