Dean Rusk was born in Cherokee County, Georgia, on February 9, 1909, and attended public schools in Atlanta, graduating from Boys High School in 1925. He worked for two years for an Atlanta lawyer before enrolling at Davidson College. Working all four years to earn his way through college, Rusk still found time to participate and excel in virtually every phase of campus life. He was active in tennis, track and basketball, was freshman class president, manager of the Students' Store, president of the YMCA and commander of the ROTC Battalion, reaching the rank of Cadet Lt. Colonel.
In 1931, Rusk graduated Phi Beta Kappa and was named Davidson's sixth Rhodes Scholar. He earned his B.S. and M.A. degrees from St. John's College, Oxford, where he also received the Cecil Peace Prize in 1933. He also studied at the University of Berlin and the University of California Law School.
From 1934 to 1940, Rusk taught at Mills College in California and was appointed dean of faculty in 1938. On June 19, 1937, he married Virginia Foisie. In 1940, he was called to active duty in the Army and eventually rose to the rank of Colonel. He was deputy chief of staff in the China-Burma-India Theatre and was awarded the Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster.
Rusk began his State Department career in 1946 with assistant chief of the Division of International Security Affairs. He served in a variety of positions culminating in his appointment as Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs in 1950. In 1952, Rusk left the State Department to become president of the Rockefeller Foundation, a position he held until 1961. On December 12, 1960, Rusk was named Secretary of State. He served Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson for eight years.
From 1970 to his retirement in 1984, Rusk served as a professor of international law at the University of Georgia in Athens. He has also remained active with Davidson College, serving as a trustee and honorary chairman of the Davidson 1987 Program. In 1990, his autobiography As I Saw It, was published. Dean Rusk died December 21, 1994.