Former Augustan made mark as international humanitarian

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Douglas Russel Dilts was a fellow Augustan and an unsung hero. He contributed to the well-being of the people of Indonesia – specifically those in and around Jakarta – in his inimitable way of helping without appearing to help.

A humble man, Doug knew how to make everyone feel at home in his presence. Scot Marciel, the U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia said of Doug, “(W)e also remember that to Indonesians he wasn’t just a boss or partner but he became a member of the family. He was welcomed and felt comfortable in the poorest homes, always had time to sit down and listen ... .”

DOUG DILTS WAS born in Cincinnati in 1952. His father was employed by Procter & Gamble Co., and his family moved to Augusta in 1962. He graduated from Richmond Academy in 1970, where he was the cadet colonel of the ROTC and a standout on the tennis team.

Doug graduated Stanford University in 1974 and earned his doctorate in international education from the University of Massachusetts in 1988.

After spending a year working on the Alaska Pipeline to pay off student loans (a novel idea by today’s standards), he went to Indonesia with Stanford’s Volunteers in Asia program in 1975. Doug fell in love with the people and stayed on to work for World Education in Indonesia and Thailand.

Russ, as he became known in Indonesia, then went on to lead the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Integrated Pest Management System program, which started in Indonesia and expanded to 12 Asian countries. This program helped more than 2 million farmers learn ecological farming practices that increased yields in the rice fields while decreasing dependency on pesticides. This work is being continued today through FIELD – Farmers’ Initiatives for Ecological Livelihoods and Democracy – which he co-founded in 2002.

In 1985, Russ fell in love again with Indonesia – this time with a beautiful young woman named Wahyu Setyowati. They married and reared five children. They started the Dilts Foundation in 1995 to provide education, job training and medical care to the street children in Jakarta and other communities.

Russ was the regional coordinator for USAID’s Environmental Services Program in Sumatra after the tsunami in 2005, and most recently was involved in an initiative to establish national parks in Indonesia and Brazil for reforestation and the protection of endangered species such as the Sumatran tiger and the orangutan.

THIS PAST OCT. 15, after a difficult hike up a mountain, he knelt to look at a rare tiger footprint and died of an apparent heart attack. He died doing what he loved – experiencing a new adventure in his quest to make this world a better place.

Doug had a zest for life. He loved his family, and he loved fishing with his children. His friends and family will remember him for his courage, his generosity and his commitment to make the world a better place.

After his father died
in 1970, Doug visited his mother in Augusta regularly. The visits became less frequent after she died in 1993. He was last here in 2010, and we had a great time. He enjoyed riding around Augusta and seeing the changes in what he
considered to be his hometown.

Augusta has lost a great ambassador, his family a loving husband, father and brother and I have lost a great friend. It’s said that many aspire to greatness, but only a few achieve it. Doug was one of those few.

(The writer is an Augusta insurance agent.)


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