John Van Gaasbeek Elmendorf (1916-1980) was an educator whose career embraced nearly every aspect of teaching and academic administration. His intellectual interests were in languages and linguistics. He attended the University of North Carolina with future Brown University President Barnaby Conrad Keeney, graduating in 1937. During World War II, Keeney and Elmendorf served together in the 35th Infantry Division. Elmendorf was in U.S. Army Military Intelligence and was awarded a Bronze Star. In 1946, he served as the Deputy Commissioner for Europe for the American Friends Service Committee
After World War II, Elmendorf earned his M.A. (1947) and Ph.D.(1951) at the University of North Carolina. He served as excutive director of the Mexican-American Cultural Institute from 1951 to 1953 and was Vice President and Dean of the Faculty at Mexico City College before leaving in 1961 to become Vice President of Brown University, where Keeney was then President.
After leaving Brown in 1965, Elmendorf served as president of New College in Sarasota, Florida from 1965 to 1972 and as a consultant with the Academy for Educational Development in Washington, D.C.
In 1937, Elmendorf married the former Mary Tillery Lindsay, an anthropologist who was also active in international welfare work. She started the CARE program in Mexico, created a work abroad program for Brown University students and was a consultant for Peace Corps programs in Latin America and the Leadership Institute at Pembroke and Wellesley.
Elmendorf passed away in 1980 at the age of sixty-four.