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Austin, Roy L. (1939- )

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Ambassador Roy Leslie Austin spent most of his life as a university scholar before becoming a U.S. diplomat at the age of 61. When Austin was nominated by President George W. Bush to be Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago he was a sociology professor at Pennsylvania State University.  After confirmation by the U.S. Senate, Austin took up his post in Port-of-Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago on October 19, 2001.  He served as ambassador until December 18, 2009.

Ambassador Austin was born in Kingstown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, on December 13, 1939.  He graduated from the St. Vincent Grammar School and worked for the British Government as a Customs Officer since at the time St. Vincent and the Grenadines was still a British colony.  Austin then returned to St. Vincent Grammar School as a teacher. In 1962, while at St. Vincent Austin played cricket on the colony’s cricket squad and was captain of its soccer team.   

In 1964 at the age of 25 Austin emigrated to the United States to attend college.  He entered Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut where he became a classmate of future U.S. President George W. Bush.  They lived in the same residential college, Davenport College, and both were inducted into the secret Skull and Bones Society.  

After graduating from Yale with a B.A. in Sociology in 1968, Austin enrolled in graduate school at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington, earning an M.A. degree in 1970 and a Ph.D. degree in 1973.  Both advanced degrees were in Sociology.  Soon after earning his Ph.D., Austin became a U.S. citizen.

Austin joined the sociology faculty at Pennsylvania State University in 1972 and would remain there until his ambassadorial appointment 29 years later.  While at Penn State he advanced through the ranks of the faculty becoming an authority on race and gender disparities in the criminal justice system. From 1994 to 1998 he served as Director of the Crime, Law, and Justice Program at the university and in July 2001, shortly before his ambassadorial appointment, he became the Director of the Africana Research Center.

Austin also made significant scholarly contributions to sociology in researching Caribbean social structures. He has published extensively in sociological and criminal justice studies journals on juvenile delinquency, deviance, and race in the criminal justice system.  He holds memberships in the American Sociological Association, the Caribbean Studies Association, and the American Society of Criminology.

During his eight year tour as U.S. Ambassador to Trinidad Austin promoted trade with the United States and American investment in the twin island nation. He also encouraged the nation to continue its strong democratic tradition and help other countries in the region do the same.  Austin urged the government and people of Trinidad to protect its natural resources and preventing the denigration of the environment.

In 1967 Ambassador Austin married Glynis Josephine Sutherland in New Haven, Connecticut.  The couple has two sons, Roy L. Austin, Jr. and Roger Austin, and one daughter, Deborah Austin Depay.

U.S. Department of State,; PSU Sociology Professor to be Named Ambassador,; “Roy L. Austin Appointed as Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago,”; “Roy L. Austin,” NNDB: Tracking the Entire World,


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