Lawrence A. Pezzullo

Lawrence A. Pezzullo, a career diplomat who became the first layman to head Catholic Relief Services (CRS), died at his home in Baltimore, Md., July 26. He was 91.

Pezzullo was executive director of CRS, the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency, from 1982 to 1992.

Coming to CRS after a career in the U.S. Foreign Service, he is credited with taking the agency “to a new level of professionalism and impact,” said a tribute to him posted on the CRS website.

“Under Pezzullo, CRS initiated everything from full computerization to a merit-driven personnel system to strategic planning initiatives,” it said.

“He gave CRS critical leadership to ensure funding for a major response to the famine in Ethiopia in 1983.”

As the agency’s fifth executive director, he also oversaw the move of CRS’ headquarters from New York to Baltimore in 1989. When CRS marked its 50th anniversary in January 1993, he told those gathered for the occasion: “CRS is always learning and changing as the world changes.”