Philip W. Pillsbury Jr., a Foreign Service officer with the old U.S. Information Agency, who helped promote cultural and educational programs in postings on four continents, died March 3 at his home in Washington. He was 85.

He had complications from Parkinson’s disease, said his wife, Nina Pillsbury.

Mr. Pillsbury was a patrician Ivy League graduate who said his most gratifying assignments were often in countries such as Mali, Madagascar and Iran, with cultures very different from his own.

He joined the USIA in 1959. The agency, which was eliminated in 1999, was separate from the State Department, although they worked closely together.

The branch of diplomacy practiced by Mr. Pillsbury was of the hearts-and-minds variety, focused on cultural exchange, education and the arts. He often coordinated visits by American artists and athletes to foreign countries as a form of cultural diplomacy.

In a 1994 oral history interview with the Association for Diplomatic Studies, Mr. Pillsbury said his responsibilities included maintaining large libraries stocked with reference books and works of American literature. He also helped facilitate the Fulbright Scholar Program, which sends U.S. students and academics overseas and brings international scholars to campuses in the United States.

After early assignments in Spain and Italy, Mr. Pillsbury was posted in 1962 to Bamako, the capital of the West African country of Mali, two years after it had secured independence from France. In the oral history interview, he said the official giving him his assignment “turned to a map of Africa and he said: ‘And it’s right . . .’ and his finger began to wander around and I knew that he didn’t know where Bamako was either.”

Before he went, Mr. Pillsbury spent 30 days traveling around the United States with a delegation of 10 Malians. He called it a life-changing experience.

“I found,” he said, “that they treated each other many times in a much more civilized manner with a sensitivity towards each other, the golden rule being lived, than I’d seen in my own culture.”

Mr. Pillsbury, who already spoke French, learned the local language in Mali — a practice he followed in most of his assignments. After two years, he moved on to Madagascar, an island off Africa’s eastern coast.

From 1967 to 1970, he directed a job training program for the Urban League in his hometown of Minneapolis. He then returned to the USIA, with postings to Zaire (now Congo), Iran, Italy and Argentina.

Mr. Pillsbury was in Buenos Aires during the Falklands War of 1982, when Argentina and Britain fought over disputed territories in the South Atlantic. Amid a chilly diplomatic climate, Mr. Pillsbury helped arrange a series of concerts by the New York Philharmonic, led by Zubin Mehta.

“He was a master,” Mr. Pillsbury said, “and those concerts in Buenos Aires and Cordoba really were the thing. . . . After that, things really began to change.”

Philip Winston Pillsbury Jr. was born Nov. 20, 1935, in Chicago and grew up in Wayzata, Minn. His father was president and chairman of the Pillsbury food processing company, which was founded by Mr. Pillsbury’s great-grandfather.

On his mother’s side, he was descended from Myles Standish, an English settler who came to America on the Mayflower.

After graduating from the private Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Conn., Mr. Pillsbury studied political science at Yale University, graduating in 1957. He spent a year at the University of Paris before entering the Foreign Service. He retired in 1990 after directing USIA’s translation, libraries and English language teaching programs.

He was a trustee of the Hotchkiss School and was on the board of the Blair House Restoration Fund in Washington. From 1995 to 1999, he served on the Joint Commission of the Environment for the Panama Canal.

Mr. Pillsbury’s many memberships included the Society of the Cincinnati, Alliance Française, Metropolitan Club and various architectural and cultural organizations. His other interests included photography and poetry.

His marriage to Marion “Wendy” Mirick ended in divorce. Survivors include his wife of 51 years, the former Caroline “Nina” Hannaford of Washington; a daughter from his first marriage, Fendell Pillsbury of Sarasota, Fla.; two children from his second marriage, Caroline Oliver of Greenwich, Conn., and Philip W. Pillsbury III of Edwards, Colo; and nine grandchildren.