Lawrence came to the United Nations for a tour with a group of disabled children from Bellevue Hospital. Ellen was known as a tour guide who was good with children, so she was assigned to lead their special visit.
One of the children, a boy named Herman, was in a motorized wheelchair, and when the elevator doors opened, he was so excited that he took off down the hall at high speed.
High speed pursuit
Ellen ran after him in her three-inch heels, and this one little incident broke the ice between Ellen and Lawrence.
Lawrence told UN News he remembered being fascinated by Ellen’s looks and her demeanor, but it was how she interacted with the kids, how concerned she was for their well-being — and how she wanted them to feel comfortable — which really got him hooked.
He was also fascinated by the good guide she was to the group, bringing the history of the UN to life as they toured the UN headquarters.
After the tour, several coincidences led to a second meeting between the two. Instead of taking the last tour of the day, Ellen realized she could leave work early, and when she walked out with a colleague, who usually took a different route out of the building, their paths crossed again, outside the Dag Hammarskjöld Library.
Amidst the rush of people leaving, Lawrence asked Ellen out – and Ellen immediately said yes. The rest, as they say, is history.
They were married on October 21, 1972. Ellen eventually joined the United States’ global diplomacy team, and Lawrence earned a master’s degree in special education from New York University, continuing to work with underprivileged children.
Fifty years passed in a flash, and what could be more appropriate for their 50e Wedding day, then come back to the United Nations for a celebratory tour?
Going on a tour with current guide Hajer Ait Grain from Morocco impressed both of them: “Compared to what we were talking about at the time, the information she gave was like a lecture at a university, but very accessible at the same time.” says Ellen.
Keep in the family
The couple, who are now grandparents, are learning about the children’s tours and are considering taking their two granddaughters on a tour of the UN headquarters so they can understand the role of the United Nations from an early age.
As Ellen and Lawrence celebrate their 50the anniversary, the Guided Tours team at UN headquarters celebrates its 70th birthdaye birthday.
The operation opened to the public in November 1952. For seven decades, visitors from all over the world have visited the UN Headquarters, giving them the chance to see, hear and feel diplomacy in action, while admiring the unique collection of artwork on display at UN Headquarters.
‘The face and voice’ of the UN
“Our multilingual guides have been the face and voice of the United Nations to more than 42 million visitors from around the world,” said UN Secretary General, António Guterres. “We celebrate their 70th anniversary and honor their vital, ongoing mission to advance understanding of the essential work of the United Nations.”
The Tour is currently being conducted in 13 languages by a team of tour guides from 17 countries. Over the decades, the guides have been dressed by leading designers, from Edith Head, Christian Dior and Benetton in the 1970s, 80s and 90s to Elie Tahari from 2017 to the present.
To celebrate the 70th anniversary, Visitors Services, with the help of former tour guides, recently put together a fashion show featuring the uniforms worn over the seven decades, as well as an arrangement of traditional dress.
A roundtable discussion on the impact the experience of serving has had on their lives and careers was also held with former guides from all seven decades.
An exhibit on the history and role of the guides as “ambassadors to the public” is currently on display in the visitors’ lobby at UN Headquarters to mark the anniversary. It is also available in digital format.
The UN Postal Service has also issued a special commemorative stamp that you can purchase from the stamp shop.