by Margaux Fontaine
Georgetown University hosted a book event in honor and memory of Carol Lancaster, Ph.D. (SFS’64), the late author of A Song to My City: Washington, D.C. Lancaster was the Dean of the School of Foreign Service from 2010 until her passing in 2014, the first woman and the first SFS graduate to serve in this position.
A third-generation Washingtonian, Lancaster was a member of the U.S. Department of State’s policy planning staff and then Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Africa. She first started working at SFS in 1981 as a research professor. Over the course of her time at Georgetown, she served as Director of the African Studies Program, the Masters of Science in Foreign Service program, and the Mortara Center. From 1993 to 1996, Lancaster served as Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). She was the author of more than ten books, including Foreign Aid: Diplomacy, Development, Domestic Politics.
The book event featured Lancaster’s son Douglas Farrar (SFS’05, S’12), who completed his mother’s book after her death. Farrar moderated a panel discussion of friends and book collaborators: Ambassador Melanne Verveer (I’66, G’69, P’94), the Executive Director of Georgetown’s Institute for Women, Peace and Security, Gail Griffith (SFS’72, S’81), former Georgetown administrator and director of the Global Education Initiative at Jesuit Refugee Service/USA; and Maurice Jackson, Ph.D. (G’95, G’01), Associate Professor in the Department of History and Affiliate Faculty in the African American Studies Department.
At the event, Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia gave opening remarks reflecting on the profound impact Lancaster had on Georgetown and the D.C. community. He quoted a line from A Song to My City that holds particular salience:
“Cities are shaped by many things. Once in a while, cities are also shaped by individuals.”
“Carol is one such individual,” DeGioia remarked. “She has shaped our university, our city, and our world for the better, and inspired all of us to do the same.”
In the panel discussion that followed, Professor Jackson reflected on the great significance Washington always held for Lancaster. A Song to My City tells the story of the city Lancaster spent her life in, from its very beginnings to modern changes, along with her own personal reflections.
“Carol figured, then, that there was nothing wrong with Washington that what’s right with Washington couldn’t fix,” Jackson said. “Because people like Carol, who fought their whole lives to make something right about the city.”
Ambassador Verveer first met Lancaster on a trip to South Asia with First Lady Hillary Clinton, for whom she was serving as Chief of Staff at the time. Lancaster was on the trip as the Deputy Administrator of USAID. An expert on global development and a strong advocate for women’s empowerment, Lancaster was instrumental in saving the USAID program, under threat in the Clinton administration, Verveer recalled.
“The untold story, except for those of us who went through it, is that Carol played a singular role in that effort,” Verveer said.
A proud Washingtonian, while at Georgetown, Lancaster pushed for University engagement not only with the rest of the world, but with the greater D.C. community as well.
“She got the fact that there had to be this connectivity – this was not an island here,” Verveer said. “This place had to be connected with the rest of the city and with the rest of the world.”
Griffith spoke about Lancaster’s time as Dean, reflecting on what it was like to work with her at the School of Foreign Service – Farrar jokingly asked whether she was as tough a boss as she was a mom.
The event conveyed the immense role that Carol Lancaster played in shaping Georgetown’s identity, connecting her experiences not only across the world but also across the city.
“I think it’s safe to say that her soul rests well here in this city and this institution she loved, and certainly in this book,” Griffith said.
A Song to My City: Washington, D.C. was published in December 2016 and is available to purchase from Georgetown University Press.