Serving his country at the State Department

(photos) Above, Patrick Ball is with his wife, Emily Ball, far left, and sister, Katherine Ball, in Jordan in 2013. Below right, Patrick Ball is with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on a 2013 visit to Amman, Jordan.

A career with the Foreign Service in the U.S. Department of State may look glamorous and exotic to many. Worldwide travel. Government-paid housing. Generous pay and benefits. But in some instances, according to the department itself, working as a foreign service officer can be very challenging and sometimes even dangerous.

As a foreign service officer, “you can expect to be assigned to hardship posts,” says the State Department. “You may face an irregular or extended work schedule. These posts can be in remote locations, without many U.S.-style amenities; there can be sporadic power outages, unreliable Internet service, etc. Health and sanitation standards can be far below U.S. standards. And some assignments are ‘unaccompanied,’ which means family members may not travel to the post with you.”

But for Patrick Ball, an alumnus of The Grosse Pointe Academy and a foreign service officer in the State Department, just like all of his previous posts, he is relishing his next one, which begins in August in Iraq.

“I am very much looking forward to my assignment in Baghdad and I expect that it will be both a challenging and rewarding experience,” he said.

Challenging and rewarding. It appears that Ball likely has never run from the former and because of that, he’s been able to enjoy a career thus far characterized by much of the latter, even though he’s still a relatively young man.

A Naval beginning

After graduating from GPA in 1994 and then Grosse Pointe South High School in 1998, Ball attended Tulane University in New Orleans on a U.S. Navy ROTC scholarship. After that, it was law school at Wayne State University. But while he was an undergrad at Tulane, Ball joined the ROTC, which eventually led to a commission as a surface warfare officer with the Navy.

“Serving in the military is part of my family’s tradition,” Ball said. “As a young child, I have always admired my relatives’ service to their country. It was an honor to serve in the Navy as a officer, especially in the challenging years following 9/11.”

After finishing up four years of active duty in the Navy, Ball still wanted to continue serving his country, and since working for the federal government seemed to be a genuine calling, he signed up with the U.S. Department of State and became a foreign service officer. 

Foreign service officers work in U.S. embassies and consulates, he said, and their primary mission is to advance U.S. foreign policy interests and provide help to American citizens abroad. He liked that idea very much.

“My first assignment with State was as an economic officer and consular officer in Georgetown, Guyana,” he said. “For my second assignment, I served as an economic officer in Amman, Jordan, where I specialized in energy issues.” 

It wasn’t all work, however, according to Ball. 

“Even though we were always really busy, it nonetheless was exciting to have such rich cultural experiences available when we could get out of the office,” he said. “In Georgetown, where I developed an interest in birdwatching, there are over 700 bird species packed into a very small geographic territory. And Jordan’s many historic sites, like the Dead Sea, Petra and Wadi Rum, were fascinating to visit.”

For Ball’s upcoming year-long “visit” to Baghdad, he will have someone very close to him as company during his assignment. His wife, Emily, who is an economics officer with the State Department, will be serving with him there at the same time.

GPA memories

It perhaps goes without saying that Iraq is a long way from Michigan and Grosse Pointe Farms. But Ball believes his education as a youngster, especially his time at the Academy, was instrumental in getting him to where he is today.

“I really appreciate all the teachers and staff who were so important in my schooling at the Academy,” he said. “I began at GPA in pre-school in 1982 and I still have fond memories of many teachers and administrators—especially my kindergarten teacher, Anne Carson, my 4th- and 5th-Grade teacher, Bob Lapadot, and those summer trips with our science teacher, Mike Fultz.”  

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About The Grosse Pointe Academy
The Grosse Pointe Academy is an independent, coeducational day school serving children age 2-1/2 through Grade 8. We foster an inclusive environment that respects all cultures and religious beliefs. We seek to remain faithful to our heritage as a former Academy of the Sacred Heart and to those who through their Catholic faith and perseverance sought to preserve and enhance the legacy of this past for generations. Incorporated as a non-profit institution, The Grosse Pointe Academy is directed by a Board of Trustees working together to serve the Southeastern Michigan community.