Former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, 68, died Monday after a sudden cardiac event.
Carter served in former President Barack Obama’s administration from 2015 to 2017. He most recently served as a public policy professor and as the director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School.
Harvard Kennedy School Dean Douglas Elmendorf released a statement Tuesday morning with the surprising news of Carter’s untimely passing.
“It is with deep and profound sorrow that I write to inform you that our colleague, teacher, and friend Ash Carter passed away yesterday evening after suffering a heart attack,” Elmendorf wrote. “This loss is so sudden and so devastating.”
Carter’s family also released a statement, saying he’d died after a “sudden cardiac event,” according to CNBC.
“[Carter] devoted his professional life to the national security of the United States and teaching students about international affairs,” the statement said. “He was a beloved husband, father, mentor, and friend. His sudden loss will be felt by all who knew him.
“While he was known for his keen understanding of military technology, nuclear weapons, and international affairs, Secretary Carter loved nothing more than spending time with the troops, making frequent trips to Iraq and Afghanistan to visit U.S forces.”
Very sad news. Ash Carter was a true public servant, a selfless leader, an innovator, and a very kind man. He always generously made time for me. And for so many other young leaders across the defense and veterans community. My deepest condolences to his family and staff. https://t.co/1kaKvKYYIP
— Paul Rieckhoff🇺🇸🇺🇦 (@PaulRieckhoff) October 25, 2022
According to Reuters, the family’s statement added: “Carter always set politics aside; he served presidents of both parties over five administrations, holding multiple positions within the Department of Defense.”
Carter’s family also highlighted his passion for teaching at Harvard, where he was revered by many. “He believed that his most profound legacy would be the thousands of students he taught with the hope that they would make the world a better and safer place.”
Tributes for Carter and his family poured in across social media on Tuesday morning, with many of his former colleagues, friends, family, and supporters boasting his many accomplishments both in government service and in the private sector.
Among other things, Ash Carter opened all combat positions to women. Under his tenure the Pentagon also ended the ban on transgender officers (only to see Trump reinstate it). He served presidents of both parties, over five administrations. RIP. https://t.co/wLZr5sZ4Yj
— Mary Louise Kelly (@NPRKelly) October 25, 2022
Tanvi Madan of the Brookings Institute highlighted other initiatives Carter was instrumental in leading.
Very sad news.
Among the legacies Ash Carter leaves:
– pushing DC to go beyond the hub-and-spoke model in Asia & think of a network of allies and partners
– a closer India-US defense relationship — he invested in it when few others did & that laid the ground for recent progress https://t.co/XfEPAQbIEY
— Tanvi Madan (@tanvi_madan) October 25, 2022
“Shocked by this news. Prof Ash Carter was an incredible friend and mentor, who gave his all to the next generation of students and leaders at HKS. Thank you for your decades of service, ABC,” one of Carter’s former students tweeted.
According to The New York Times, Carter is survived by his wife, Stephanie, and his children, Ava and Will.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.