Theodore E. Gildred Jr., a prominent San Diego developer and philanthropist, was nominated by President Reagan on Friday to become the next ambassador to Argentina.
The 50-year-old Gildred is known for his efforts to promote understanding of Latin American affairs, and he's used his position as the sole director of the Gildred Foundation to fund professorships of Latin American studies at Stanford University and UC San Diego.
More recently, Gildred's foundation contributed $6 million to establish in 1984 the Institute of the Americas, a think tank at UCSD that holds workshops and hosts speeches by scholars, economists, businessmen and politicians from North and South America.
Gildred had been under consideration for the ambassadorship for months, and his selection is consistent with Reagan's policy of appointing private businessmen instead of career State Department foreign services employees to such posts.
Congressional and State Department experts on Argentina say the ambassador post in the second-largest country in South America is considered important but not as crucial as posts in the more troubled Central American region.
The United States has steered clear of political or military intervention in Argentina, a democracy with a $40-billion deficit but one of the highest literacy rates in the Southern Hemisphere, they said.
Gildred on Friday was unavailable for comment. But his office issued a statement in which he said he was "very pleased and honored" by the nomination, which now goes to the U.S. Senate for confirmation.
If confirmed, Gildred, who lives in Solana Beach, would resign as chairman of the board of the Lomas Santa Fe Cos., the development company he founded with his brother. However, he will continue to own the company, which has development projects in Solana Beach, Escondido and the "golden triangle" in northern San Diego, according to Walt Warner, a Lomas Santa Fe vice president.
Born in Mexico City, Gildred was graduated from Stanford in 1959 before attending the Sorbonne in Paris and the University of Heidelberg for post-graduate studies in language and culture. He is fluent in English, Spanish, German and French, said Warner.
Gildred is the founder and chairman of the board of the Torrey Pines Bank, and serves on a variety of other boards, including the Salk Institute and the American British Cowdray Hospital Foundation in Mexico City.
Gildred made headlines in 1981 when he flew a vintage single-engine plane for 18 days between San Diego and Quito, Ecuador. The flight replicated the first airplane flight to Ecuador 50 years earlier, a trip made by Gildred's father.