Carol Lancaster, 1942-2014

A leading figure in American foreign policy and a long-term dean at Georgetown University, who was described by Hillary Clinton as “a true champion for human development and women’s progress”, has died

November 20, 2014

Source: Georgetown University

Carol Lancaster was born into a poor family in Washington DC on 23 August 1942 and, despite extensive foreign travel, was based in the city for much of her life. She studied at the Oxon Hill High School and the School of Foreign Service (SFS) at Georgetown. After graduating in 1964, she secured a Fulbright Scholarship to attend the Universidad de Mayor San Andrés in La Paz, Bolivia, took the opportunity to travel round the country and went on to a PhD at the London School of Economics (1972).

Back in Washington, Professor Lancaster worked as a federal budget examiner and then for a senator and a congressman, the latter of whom praised her for “a hard-nosed, fact-based practicality that turns good intentions into good results”. She served on the policy planning staff at the US Department of State (1977-80) and briefly as deputy assistant secretary of state for Africa (1980-81) before returning to the SFS as a research professor. She was later appointed director of the African Studies programme.

Her academic career was interrupted when she became deputy administrator for the US Agency for International Development (1993-96). It was while she was in this role that she often travelled with Hillary Clinton, who was then First Lady, to developing countries. They also joined forces with former secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, to set up the Vital Voices Global Partnership to help empower women across the globe. Albright called her “an innovator in the field of international development [who] made an indelible contribution to American foreign policy”.

Based at Georgetown again from 1996, Professor Lancaster wrote a number of highly influential books, including Transforming Foreign Aid: United States Assistance in the 21st Century (2000) and Foreign Aid: Diplomacy, Development, Domestic Politics (2007). She also recently completed a book on Washington, which she described as a “love letter” to the native city that had “interested, amused, annoyed and sometimes inspired” her.

Promoted to dean of the SFS in 2010, Professor Lancaster established new master’s programmes in Asian studies and global human development. Herself something of a pioneering woman within the international affairs establishment, she also raised funds to set up the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security.

Professor Lancaster died of a brain tumour on 22 October and is survived by her husband Curtis Farrar, their son Douglas, four stepchildren – John, Cynthia, Andrew and Erin – and seven grandchildren.

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