Peggy (Margaret) Nalle, who helped the first generation of Friendly Fellows keep in touch with each other and the Fellowship, died on December 13 at Sibley Hospital in Washington.
Peggy, who was 93 and had been in failing health for many months, edited the Fellowship’s quarterly newsletter and provided visiting Fellows with hospitality and perceptive, caring advice from 1986 to 2002, during and after the years that her late husband David directed the program.
“With her warm heart, sharp wit and deep understanding of other cultures,” Peggy brought priceless skills to the Fellowship,” said Alfred Friendly Jr. “She continued to care for its graduates for many years, even attending the final Washington dinner for the class of 2015.”
She is survived by her son, David Fleming Nalle of Austin, Texas; her daughter, Susan Tilghman Nalle of Hoboken, New Jersey; and two granddaughters, Caroline and Catherine Nalle.
Letters addressed to them should be sent to Apartment 505, 3901 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington DC 20016.
A native Washingtonian, Peggy graduated from the Potomac and Madeira schools and Smith College where she majored in philosophy and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
Her own experience as a journalist came from working first as a copy boy and eventually a reporter for the Washington Evening Star.
From 1952 to 1958 she served as a writer/editor for the Central Intelligence Agency. After marrying David, a United States Information Agency officer, in 1958, she lived with him in Damascus, Syria; Tehran, Iran; and Amman, Jordan. In those days, when wives of Foreign Service officers were not allowed to work, she used her skills as a bridge player to meet and be welcomed by high-ranking women in those capitals, getting to know segments of female society otherwise largely inaccessible to foreigners.
Other highlights of her early diplomatic days included baking chocolate chip cookies to demonstrate the effectiveness of a solar oven in the U.S. pavilion at a trade fair in Damascus, writing a training manual on how to recruit and use volunteers for the Iranian social welfare organization, studying Islamic philosophy at Tehran University and entertaining Duke Ellington during his USIA-sponsored visit to Jordan.
In 1972 when David came to Moscow as cultural attaché, Peggy, by then a Russian speaker, was able to make contact with a wide variety of cultural figures. They included the group of dissident Soviet painters who organized what became known as the “bulldozer” exhibit when Communist officials sent bulldozers to break up the outdoor show and destroy a number of the paintings. She and David attended the exhibit in August 1975 and were able to help two of the exhibit organizers escape unhurt.
From 1976 until 1986, she was editorial director and speechwriter for Sen. Charles McC. Mathias Jr. (R-MD), acting after 1983 as his administrative assistant. When Senator Mathias retired, Peggy served for two years as Washington representative for the American University in Cairo. During that same period, she was copy editor of Middle East Policy, the journal of the Middle East Policy Council.
From 1995 until 2006, she volunteered as an evaluator for the FLEX program (Future Leaders Exchange) run by the American Councils for International Exchange, which brings high school students from Russia and the former Soviet republics to the United States to study for a year. Her other volunteer activities included copy editing at Dumbarton Oaks for the Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium.