Photo by David Valdez
Chase Untermeyer has held positions at all four levels of government – local, state, national, and international — over a period of more than 40 years, with work in journalism, academia, and business as well.
Ambassador Untermeyer was born in Long Branch, New Jersey, on 7 March 1946 and came to Houston at the age of two. He is a product of the Spring Branch public schools and is a 1968 graduate of Harvard College with honors in government. While in college, he helped George H.W. Bush in his 1966 race for a seat in Congress from Houston and spent two summers as an intern on the Washington staff of freshman Congressman Bush.
Commissioned under the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps program, Mr. Untermeyer served in the Navy during the Vietnam War as an officer aboard the Pacific Fleet destroyer USS Benner (DD-807) and as aide and flag lieutenant to the late Rear Admiral Draper L. Kauffman, commander of U.S. naval forces in the Philippines.
Immediately after leaving the Navy in 1970, he traveled for 16 months on his own through Asia and Africa.
Returning to Houston in 1971, Mr. Untermeyer began his career as a political reporter for the Houston Chronicle. He left three years later to become executive assistant to the newly-elected county judge (chief executive) of Harris County, the county which surrounds Houston. In 1976, he was elected as a Republican to the first of two terms as a member of the Texas House of Representatives from a district that included the River Oaks, Tanglewood, and Spring Branch areas of Houston.
In 1977-78, he collaborated with George H.W. Bush on memoirs of his public life. The work was never published, but parts of it were used in Bush’s subsequent book, Looking Forward (1987) with Victor Gold.
In connection with this project, he accompanied Mr. and Mrs. Bush on their return trip to China in the fall of 1977 in a delegation that included the future US secretary of State, James A. Baker III; the future US ambassador to China, James R. Lilley; political journalist David Broder of the Washington Post; and the renowned author and broadcast journalist Lowell Thomas.
In the fall of 1980, then-State Representative Untermeyer was a fellow of the Institute of Politics at Harvard, where he led a student study group on how to get started in politics.
When George H.W. Bush was elected vice president in 1980, Mr. Untermeyer resigned his seat in the Legislature to go to Washington as his executive assistant. During two years on the vice presidential staff he handled politics, Texan affairs, and presidential personnel. Mr. Untermeyer also traveled with the Vice President on a total of 99 trips, ten of them abroad.
In 1983, he was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Installations and Facilities, in charge of the bases and other land and buildings of the Navy and Marine Corps. The next year; President Reagan appointed him Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, with responsibility for recruiting, training, health, housing, discipline, and other personnel aspects of 600,000 Navy and 200,000 Marine Corps men and women, plus one-third million civilian employees.
Mr. Untermeyer resigned his position at the Navy Department to spend the 1988 presidential campaign planning the transition in the event Vice President Bush was elected. The morning after his election, Mr. Bush named Mr. Untermeyer as director of presidential personnel, to advise him on some 3500 federal appointments. He continued in this role as an Assistant to President George H.W. Bush in the White House through August 1991, when he became director of the Voice of America, the overseas broadcasting arm of the U.S. Government. In addition, he oversaw Worldnet, a 24-hour/day television service, and Radio and TV Martí, which broadcast entirely to Cuba.
Upon the conclusion of his government service in 1993, Mr. Untermeyer became director of public affairs at the Compaq Computer Corporation, leaving prior to its merger with Hewlett Packard in 2002. For the next two years, he was vice president for government affairs and professor of public policy at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
In January 1999, Mr. Untermeyer was appointed chairman of the Texas State Board of Education by then-Governor George W. Bush and served as chairman through the end of the Bush governorship. Having been elected in 2000 without opposition to a full term with over 330,000 votes, he remained a member of the Board until his term ended in January 2003.
From 2004 until 2007, Mr. Untermeyer served as US ambassador to Qatar on appointment of President George W. Bush.
He is currently professor of practice at the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston.
In prior part-time public service, he has been chairman of the Board of Visitors of the US Naval Academy; president of the Houston READ Commission, the city’s coalition for literacy; a member of the board of National Public Radio; a member of the advisory council of the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico (Fideicomiso de Conservación de Puerto Rico); a member of the Houston Port Commission; a member of the Defense Health Board; a founding member of the board of the Episcopal Health Foundation; founding chairman of the Qatar-America Institute; and chairman of the Texas Ethics Commission.
He is married to the former Diana Cumming Kendrick of Sheridan, Wyoming. They met in the White House the first week of the Bush Administration when she was executive assistant to Boyden Gray, counsel to President Bush. Their daughter Ellyson, a 2016 graduate of Stanford University, works for Facebook.
Mr. Untermeyer is the author of three volumes of diary-based memoirs of the Reagan-Bush era, When Things Went Right (Texas A&M University Press, 2013), Inside Reagan’s Navy (Texas A&M University Press, 2015), and Zenith: In the White House of George HW Bush (Texas A&M University Press, 2013). He has also published How Important People Act: Behaving Yourself in Public (Bright Sky Press, 2014).
Language skills: Conversational and reading fluency in Spanish and French.