In memoriam Jürgen H. Blankenburg

Photo: Axel Jansen, 2013, AFS Foundation

* 17 May 1935, † 31 August 2017

Today, we lost a true friend, a visionary and a firm believer in youth exchange, an ardent supporter of young people and of the arts. Jürgen Blankenburg, “spiritus rector” and Honorary President of the AFS Foundation, leaves us with an immeasurable wealth of memories and a legacy he has created in the name of youth exchange. He has been an AFSer through and through – an AFS exchange student from Duisburg to Birmingham, Alabama, in 1952/53, a key supporter of AFS Germany for more than 25 years, an AFS Trustee from 1993 to 2000, also Chairman of the Finance Committee, and a member of the Risk Management Committee until 2004.

Out of his concern for the risks that organizations like AFS face, and relying on his professional experience as a risk manager and independent insurance broker, he initiated the creation of a foundation that would safeguard the name and the legacy of AFS. In 2004, he was the Founding President of the AFS Foundation. He retired from the board of the Foundation in 2012 and was named Honorary President.

Jürgen Blankenburg never shied away from getting involved, he always stood up for his beliefs. He was an extraordinary personality. He was also an avid collector of art and an important supporter of cultural institutions in his city of Hamburg and beyond. In 2009, the Federal Republic of Germany bestowed on him the Federal Cross of Merit (Bundesverdienstkreuz).

We will miss his wit, his optimism, and his wisdom. We will cherish what he has created and what he has taught us – for the good of AFS, for the youth, and for an open-minded perspective on the world.

  • AFS exchange student from Duisburg to Birmingham, Alabama in 1952/53
  • PhD in political science
  • Kuratorium AFS IB e.V. 1975-2000
  • AFS International Board of Trustees, Chairman Finance Committee, 1993-2000
  • Member Risk Management Committee, 2003-2004
  • President AFS Foundation, 2004-2012
  • Honorary President AFS Foundation


Jurgen era una gran bella persona

I met Jurgen for the first time at an AFS World Congress many years ago: he was then the chair of the finance committee; he made a speech on the strategy that AFS should follow in the future that I liked very much, because it was clear, realistic, creative and intelligent. Since then, I had the privilege to work with him on many different AFS matters: even more so when he established the AFS Foundation and chaired it for almost 10 years. As it frequently happens when people who work together find themselves on the same wavelength, the business relationship became a friendship, which allowed me to see his personal side: his love for art, his philanthropy,  his deep culture. In Italian, I would summarize all this in a couple of words: “Jurgen era una gran bella persona” , which poorly translates into Jurgen was a wonderful person.

Ezio Vergani

Very sad to hear the news of Jurgen’s passing. We all shared great times together at Trustee meetings.  His wisdom and extensive business experience were extraordinarily important in guiding the AFS community through the early days of partnership.  Many of the features of the network that underpin the strength of AFS today were the direct result of his insights and keen understanding of how best to balance the risks and opportunities of this new world.  His love of AFS was palpable and deeply connected to the history of his own country and the generosity of others who had brought him to the US in the early 50s. He led a wonderful life and I treasure the memories of the times we spent together. 

Richard Spencer

… Another giant in the AFS world is gone.

I join you and all other friends in mourning over the passing of Jurgen.

Tsugiko Scullion

Sad news for AFS, and for all of us who had the enormous privilege and honour of sharing moments, memories and ideals with Jurgen.

We will miss a great friend, an idealist, a moral support for everyone.

THANK YOU, Jurgen, for so much.

Victor Oporto

He was such a wonderful, elegant man, who truly believed and lived the AFS mission his whole life, in many ways and roles. We will all miss him terribly as his like doesn’t come along all that often.

Ailsa Eckel

Jurgen was always a power of strength and wisdom in the AFS family… made a wonderful contribution over many years… he will be greatly missed. I warmly recall our time together… his sharp mind and his wicked wit and smile!

John Shuey

… Jürgen was definitively a shining member of the AFS family. He will indeed be missed.

Sandy Mitchell

I am devastated by this unexpected message… I will now treasure the attached picture even more.

Jim Cooney
April 2017 in Hamburg

Very sad news indeed!  My memories of Jürgen are that of a sharp mind and a wonderful dry sense of humour!  It is a great loss for AFS, his family and friends.

Anne Depaulis

I am very shocked and saddened … Jurgen was a great AFSer and a leader.

He will be missed by many of us at AFS. I am praying for him and for his family.

Yuzo Takada

Souvenir Photos


An Art Connoisseur with a Sense of Initiative

AFS Virtual Museum

Certificate 50 years AFS