In Memory: Lyle Brenneman, Former Regional Director for Africa, Made “Immeasurable” Contributions to NCBA CLUSA


Lyle Brenneman, NCBA CLUSA’s regional director for Africa in the early 1980s, passed away July 26 at his home in Washington, DC. NCBA CLUSA is deeply saddened by this loss.

Born in Scottsbluff County, Nebraska in 1934, Brenneman spent the first eight years of his life in nearby Colorado and later grew up in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. He earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Oregon and Northwest Christian University, a graduate degree at Butler University and a doctoral degree in international relations from American University. He also completed linguistics and French language studies in Brussels, Belgium.

Brenneman spent much of his professional life working in the fields of education and international economic development. For a three-year period during the mid-1960s, he served as a teacher and school administrator in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 1968, he moved to Washington, DC for a job with American University, serving in the division of Foreign Area Studies in what was then the College of Public and International Affairs.

In 1978, Brenneman joined NCBA CLUSA as Regional Director for Africa. In that capacity, he designed and established NCBA CLUSA’s rural development programs in Africa—including in Swaziland and Rwanda—and wrote many of the organization’s winning proposals and case studies. In 1983, when NCBA CLUSA underwent reorganization, Brenneman took over responsibility for NCBA CLUSA’s programs in Asia. Even after he left NCBA CLUSA in the late 1980s, Brenneman continued for decades to serve as a consultant for NCBA CLUSA’s programs in Southeast Asia, working with Regional Director for Southeast Asia Sam Filiaci.

Brenneman was also behind the hiring of Jim Alrutz, NCBA CLUSA’s Regional Director for Africa from the mid 1980s until 2007. Together they hired Papa Sene, Hall of Famer and longtime NCBA CLUSA advisor. Both Alrutz and Sene would go on to spend more than 30 years with NCBA CLUSA. The latter continues to serve as senior technical advisor to our Yaajeende project in Senegal.

“Lyle was truly the best of us,” Sene wrote in an email to Alrutz following news of Brenneman’s passing.

“Lyle’s contributions to the development of NCBA CLUSA as an international organization are immeasurable, but for those of us who knew him and loved him, it was his sensitive way of working with colleagues and people from all different cultures that he will be remembered,” Alrutz said.

Alex Serrano, NCBA CLUSA’s Vice President of Strategic Development, remembers Brenneman fondly. “Lyle was a talented writer and an excellent human being. He was the type of colleague and friend that we can all be proud of.”

Brenneman is survived by his wife of 35 years, Diane Marie (Quass) Brenneman of Washington, DC; his daughters Kathryn Lyon of Madison, Wisconsin and Elizabeth Beard of Mt. Airy, Maryland; a stepdaughter, Sara Chauhan, of Washington, DC; five grandchildren; and a step-grandson.

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