Duo to Present the Story of ‘Argo’ at Lecture on Tuesday

The last talk in the ATEC Distinguished Lecture Series is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building lecture hall.

Speaking will be Tony and Jonna Mendez, the pair behind the story told in the Warner Bros. feature filmArgo, winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture of 2012. The lecture is presented by the Ann and Jack Graves Charitable Foundation

Tony Mendez is a retired CIA officer, author and award-winning painter. In 1965, he was recruited by the CIA’s Technical Services Division. He led two lives. To his friends, he was a quiet bureaucrat working for the U.S. military, but for 25 years, he worked undercover, often overseas, participating in some of the most important operations of the Cold War. To the CIA, he was its disguise master. From Wild West adventures in East Asia to Cold War intrigue in Moscow, he was there.

Tony and Jonna Mendez, former CIA officers

Tony and Jonna Mendez,
former CIA officers

Over the course of his career, Mendez moved into the CIA’s executive rank. Mendez and his subordinates were responsible for changing the identities and appearance of thousands of clandestine operatives, allowing them to move securely around the world.

In 1980, Mendez was awarded the Intelligence Star for Valor for engineering and conducting the rescue of six U.S. diplomats from Iran during the hostage crisis. This rescue operation involved creating an ostensible Hollywood film production company, complete with personnel, scripts, publicity and real estate in Los Angeles. The story served as the basis for his most recent book, Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled off the Most Audacious Rescue in History, as well as the film Argo.

When Mendez retired in 1990, he had earned the CIA’s Intelligence Medal of Merit and two Certificates of Distinction. Seven years later, on the 50th anniversary of the agency, he was awarded the Trailblazer Medallion, which recognized him as an “officer who by his actions, example or initiative … helped shape the history of the CIA.”

Jonna Mendez is a retired CIA intelligence officer with 27 years of service, living undercover and serving tours of duty in Europe, South Asia and the Far East.

She joined the CIA’s Technical Services Division in early 1970 and was overseas within a few years, serving as a technical operations officer with a specialty in clandestine photography. Her duties included training the CIA’s most highly placed foreign assets to use spy cameras and process the intelligence they gathered. She earned the CIA’s Intelligence Commendation Medal before she retired in 1993.

The couple continues to consult for the U.S. intelligence community and has participated in more than 22 television documentaries. In 2002, the two collaborated on Spy Dust, a book about their work in Moscow during the last decade of the Cold War.

Both are founding board members of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. Jonna Mendez also serves as vice president of the La Gesse Foundation, presenting American pianists in Europe and at Carnegie Hall, and is on the board of the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts in Hagerstown, Maryland.


Tickets and Parking

Prices vary between $10 and $20 for seats in the lower level of the Edith O’Donnell ATEC Building’s lecture hall. Tickets for balcony seats are $5.

Staff and faculty members can purchase up to four tickets for each lecture that will be discounted by $5. Emails were sent to staff and faculty with a discount code. The discount only applies to assigned seats in the $10-to-$20 range.

If seats are still available, free standby tickets will be distributed to students with a valid Comet Card beginning one hour before the lecture. First come, first served. One ticket per student. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here using a desktop or laptop computer. For information about parking and valet service, click here.