The School of Foreign Service was founded in 1919 as a direct response to the involvement of the United States in the First World War. “Having entered upon the stage of world politics and world commerce, we assume world-wide obligations. Our viewpoint can never be the same again,” wrote Edmund A. Walsh, S.J., the School’s first dean. SFS predates the U.S. Foreign Service by six years.
The establishment of a program at Georgetown dedicated to educating students on global issues and preparing them for lives of service in the international arena reflected both the University’s Jesuit heritage, with its emphasis on intercultural understanding, and its origins as an institution of the American Enlightenment, dedicated to the rights of man and the education of citizens.
Edmund A. Walsh, S.J.
Born in 1885 in South Boston, Mass., Edmund A. Walsh began his Jesuit novitiate and studied philosophy in Maryland before teaching at the preparatory school r
un by Georgetown University and studying in Ireland, England and Austria-Hungary. Walsh was ordained in 1916 and became dean of Georgetown College a year later, but his deanship was soon interrupted; the War Department asked Fr. Walsh to serve on a board of five educators designing and overseeing special programs of study tied to America’s entry into the First World War. The experience drew Fr. Walsh’s attention to the condition of American education in diplomacy. He found it lacking and saw Georgetown as an ideal home for a premier institution of training in the field.
Heeding Fr. Walsh’s recommendation, the Board of Regents of Georgetown University authorized the creation of a “School of Foreign Service,” and after a provisional semester, SFS was formally inaugurated during ceremonies on November 25, 1919. In dedicatory remarks, Fr. Walsh, as dean, outlined his vision of a school that would include all major forms of foreign representation — official and unofficial, governmental and private sector, whether commercial, financial, consular or diplomatic.
Fr. Walsh was recognized in his time as a skilled and principled figure and was called away from Georgetown on diplomatic missions to Russia in 1922, Mexico in 1929 and Germany in 1945. But his life’s work was his service as SFS dean, which continued until he fell ill in 1952. Two years after his death in 1956, Georgetown opened the Walsh Building on the east campus — the first permanent home of what was then renamed the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service.
The above content was adapted from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service: The First 75 Years by Seth P. Tillman.
In the summer of 2005, the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar was established by agreement between Georgetown University and Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development. With this agreement, Georgetown joined four other distinguished American universities on the campus of Education City in Doha, and the School of Foreign Service in Qatar began with the guiding principle to maintain the standards and quality of its academic program in all its dimensions. Taught by a faculty recruited both from the Georgetown Main Campus and from around the world, undergraduate students in Qatar pursue the same curriculum as students in Washington.