Large image

Share a special moment from Christopher's life.

Write a story

SAA Matrix Management

July 17, 2016

I saw Dowswell with a conviction to take SAA to another level, higher than before, using a matrix management system.

Those who dug the well

December 14, 2011

I was very sad to hear about the death of Chris Dowswell. He was a good friend and pioneer in the communications group at CIMMYT. I recall a conversation with him in 1996 that I quote often. It was when we dedicated Glenn Anderson's Deodar Cedar by the Admin bldg. We were discussing the need to remember institutional history and the people who came before us so as to give credit as well as not repeat the past. Chris said that there was an old African saying:


It rang true then and still does now. Chris was one of the pioneer comunications people at CIMMYT and laid a solid foundation for the excellent unit that exists now. That work and his later efforts with Norm Borlaug/Sesakawa are an outstanding legacy. May he rest in peace.

Chris Dowswell visits India in 2005

December 9, 2011

I vividly remeber Chris Dowswell visiting Directortae of Wheat Research, Karnal, India on March 17, 2005 along with Norman Borlaug. He developed a special rapport with me and discussed about wheat production in India. He also took my pictures with Borlaug and posted me later on.

I was sad to know about his death. I pray to Almighty for peace to his soul.

Ravish Chatrath, Principal Scientist, DWR, Karnal

December 7, 2011

Chris always came schlepping a suitcase heavy with gifts, (you all know that about him). One time he brought a vibrantly colored, whimsical, animal tower made by the Kakchiquel of Guatemala.  A rooster rode on the back of a cat, the cat on a dog, and the dog on the back of a donkey---"The Bremen Town Musicians", if you know the folktale. Before long Chris sat on the floor with my three year old granddaughter marching the animals through his playful narrative.  Soon the story morphed from Brothers Grimm to the fields of Africa where the robbers were made to relinquish their food to the foursome to help the hungry villagers. Never an opportunity lost to educate a budding mind about the needs of a broader humanity!  He touched our hearts, didn't he, with his laughter, joy, and generosity.

CIMMYT Tribute

November 30, 2011

A great soul too soon taken from our midst: Christopher R. Dowswell, 1947-2011

Former CIMMYT colleague and dear friend Christopher R. Dowswell died on Saturday 19 November 2011 in his home in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, as a result of health problems. He was 64 years old.

Chris was a great soul who cared deeply about people and devoted his life to development causes, particularly the fight against hunger and poverty. A US citizen, he was an agricultural economist by training, with undergraduate studies at the University of Colorado and graduate studies at Colorado State University, but he worked mainly in agricultural communications and extension. Chris served at the Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA) since 1991, most recently as Executive Director - Programs. His distinguished career also included positions at the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) and Oregon State University. For 31 years he was aide de camp and devoted friend to Dr. Norman Borlaug. He also served on the UN Millennium Hunger Task Force during 2002-06, the IFPRI 2020 Millions Fed Advisory Committee in 2008-09, and the World Food Program Purchase for Progress Technical Advisory Committee, 2009.

On staff at CIMMYT during 1979-85, Chris helped establish and lead a strong agricultural communications unit. His love for and close relationship with the center continued after his official employment ended. He contributed to the design and construction of the Norman E. Borlaug Building in El Batan. He was instrumental in the Borlaug Fund which helped defray the costs of school supplies and transport for hundreds of children of CIMMYT support staff in Mexico. Chris intervened repeatedly with donors and partners in support of CIMMYT interests. In constant contact with center staff and management during the last two decades, he provided thoughtful advice and criticism that helped guide the center in pursuit of its mission.

While at CIMMYT, Chris wholly embraced Mexico, mastering the Spanish language, learning the country's culture and history, and cultivating a vast network of friends, acquaintances, and loved ones. This and his natural wit, warmth, and humility earned him the abiding affection and esteem of everyone he knew. Chris made Mexico his home, recently setting up his retirement abode in San Miguel.

Chris is survived by his mother, Doreen; his brothers, David and Steven; and his widow, Silvia Castillo de Dowswell. His funeral took place in recent days in San Miguel. His memory will be honored in presence of his ashes at a Catholic Mass in the Cathedral of Texcoco, Colonia Centro, at 1300 on Tuesday 29 November 2011.

Friends and former colleagues are also cordially invited to a memorial service in the pine grove at CIMMYT headquarters in El Batan, Km. 45, Carretera Mexico-Veracruz, Texcoco, Mexico, at 1030 on Tuesday 29 November (for more information, contact Paula Rubio, Email:, or tel: +52 55 5804 2004 ext. 1160).

Condolence messages can be sent to Steven Dowswell ( and Silvia Castillo de Dowswell, by way of her daughter (

An Extraordinary Man

November 30, 2011

Christopher had an eternal glow about him, abundant energy that transcended his age and health, endless enthusiasm and total dedication to his life's work.  I am a lucky man for knowing him for the past few years.  I only wish I had the privilege of knowing him longer.  What a privilege that would have been.  Yet, in perspective, most people go through their years on this planet and never have the privilege of meeting and knowing someone like Chris.  Today I am grateful for knowing him in the same instant that I am so saddened by his passing.

I met Chris when engaged to perform work for SAA.  Just minutes after meeting him, I knew that I had met a friend for life.  He connected with people on an immediate and deep level.  Some executives are task-focused.  Others are people-focused.  Chris was both task-focused and people-focused and he was a virtuoso in both areas.  I have worked with many powerful executives around the globe.  One characteristic that they all have?  They look straight into your eyes.  Chris looked into your eyes but it was different.  You could see his inquiring mind at work: Who are you, really? How can I leverage your talents so that you can join me as a force for positive change?  It was so very powerful.  It was unique.  It was all about his mission, not his ego.

I would return from trips to Africa and comment to my friends about the after-hours conversations we would have.  The sparkling and sophisticated conversations about world affairs that occurred in Africa were a cut above the conversations I enjoy in New York and Washington.  Why? Chris brought the energy.  He brought the sparkle.  He made it all special, instant by instant.  What's more, he had assembled a unique group of people who were up to the task and added to the energy he brought.  And the task was always grand, never trivial, never small bore.

Chris had enormous gravitas.  He was a force for good.  I don't know how many Christophers populate this globe of ours, but it's plain that there aren't enough of them.  Chris embodied what real leadership is all about.  May we all be inspired by him.  May each of us become ever more powerful in improving the lives of others wherever we may be on this planet.  There's no replacing Chris Dowswell but those of us who knew him encumber a unique debt: We owe it to him to do our best to try.

In Memory of My Friend Chris

November 30, 2011

 It is with great sadness, as well as a strong sense of gratitude, that I offer these few words of remembrance for my friend, Chris Dowswell. I had the great good fortune of knowing Chris longer than most people, having met him first in graduate school in late 1971, but I won’t say I knew him better. In truth, many people knew Chris well, as he opened himself and his heart to almost everyone in his life. He was a generous and giving person – of his time, his genuine interest in you, his love and affection, and even his money (which I believe he always considered the least of what he had to give).

Chris was a natural leader. Not by virtue of his physical appearance – a standard we all too often apply to leaders today – but by the power of his ideas, his passion, his dedication, and his professionalism. He was fearless in “speaking truth to power”, which imbued him with power and moral authority far beyond any that could be bestowed by others.

Chris once confided in me that he always felt like he was hearing a crashing wave behind him...that he was always just a few steps ahead of that wave and that one day it would come crashing down around him. But I think what he heard was the sound of the waves he was forever making wherever he went...of the wake he left behind as he passed through life. Those waves continue to spread and will long rock the boats of many people and institutions. Chris had a way of making you think, of enabling you to see more clearly what were to him simple truths. And sometimes he helped you understand that things were not as simple or as clear as you thought they were, that life is not black and white, but instead is gloriously multi-hued.

Chris leaves a huge gap behind that none will ever fill, at least not in my life. He made me a better person, a better man, a better colleague. I will always be grateful to him and for him, and he will forever own a large part of my heart.

Be safe and at peace my friend. 

November 29, 2011

Dear Chris,

I didn't know you well but I did know the warmth of your smile and the kindness of your heart.  We talked about our shared love of little ones and interest in photography. During one visit, you were using your new camera that put a little box in the viewer around a smile and we laughed about that as you told me I needed to smile more.

  I asked you recently if you might share some photos of children with their mothers in Africa and you smiled and asked, "How many?, I have hundreds!"  You did send two to me which I will print and put up in my Early Headstart classroom as I had planned. Your life on this earth may be over but your good works will live on in the many lives that you touched

I found this poem which mentions grain and made me think of you and all the work that you did with maize and wanted to share it in my tribute to you...

Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there, I did not die.

Share a story

Add a document, picture, song, or video
Add an attachment Add a media attachment to your story
You can illustrate your story with a photo, video, song, or PDF document attachment.