St. Johns Country Day School

Outstanding Alumni

On Friday, April 24, Jim Townsend was named the Outstanding Alumnus of the Year 2015. Jim graduated from St. Johns in 1975 and won the Best Citizen, a Leadership Award, Citizenship Awards, and Who’s Who Among American High School Students during his career at St. Johns. He was on the basketball team, the debate team, editorial editor of the school newspaper, Vice-President of the Student Council his Junior year, and President of the Senior Class. He was also a newspaper correspondent with the Jacksonville Journal while still in high school. Upon graduating from St. Johns in 1975, Jim went on to earn a B.A. from Duke University and an M.A. from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in International Economics and American Foreign Policy.

Jim began his career in 1978 with internships in the Departments of State, Defense, in the Office of Congressman Charles E. Bennett and in the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, where he worked on the strategic affairs staff.
In 1986, he received a direct commission in the U.S. Navy Reserve (intelligence) leaving the Reserves as a Lieutenant Commander. He then worked in the Defense Security Cooperation Agency as a Country Director for European security assistance and as the assistant to the DSCA Comptroller, where he worked on most of the financial aspects involved in foreign military sales.
He then served for eight years as Deputy Director of European Policy, where he played a pivotal role in NATO enlargement and building new relations between the US and the emerging democracies of Central and Eastern Europe. From 1990 – 1994, Jim was the Country Director for Northern Europe, where he developed new, post-Cold War defense relations between the US and the Scandinavian nations. During this time, he was also heavily engaged in the Balkan crisis and in building the European coalition that fought with the US in the Gulf War.
He had a distinguished career at the Pentagon and at NATO. Jim was the Principal Director of European and NATO Policy (2003-2006), the Director of NATO Policy (2002-2003) and the Director of the Defense Plans Division at the US Mission to NATO in Brussels, Belgium (1998-2002).

Jim spent some time in the private sector as the Vice President of the Atlantic Council of the United States and Director of the Council’s Program on International Security. In this position, he strengthened the Council’s voice and impact on transatlantic security and defense issues, making the Atlantic Council a leading player in shaping the Euro-Atlantic defense agenda.
Jim is now the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO Policy, responsible for managing the day-to-day defense relationship between the United States, NATO, the EU and the nations of Europe. Since returning to the Pentagon, Jim has been working on the crisis in Ukraine, NATO operations in Libya and Afghanistan, and putting together the European coalition fighting the Islamic State.

He has been awarded a Presidential Rank Award (Meritorious Executive), Secretary of Defense Meritorious Civilian Service Award, the Office of the Secretary of Defense Exceptional Civilian Service Award (twice), the Office of the Secretary of Defense Award for Excellence and the Department of the Army Superior Civilian Service Award. He is an adjunct professor of international studies at American University and has lectured overseas and in the US at the War Colleges, National Defense University, and the Foreign Service Institute. He has also provided commentary in the international press on TV, radio and in newspapers.


Jim is married to Joan Diggs Townsend and has three children, Carolyn, Jimmy, and Beth.