Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Former U.N. Envoy Left Strong Mark on Hilltop

Georgetown bid farewell to one of its most prominent and longest-serving faculty members last month following the death of Jeane Kirkpatrick, the first female U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a hard-nosed champion of the Reagan administration’s anti-communist policies.

Kirkpatrick, who joined the university’s government department in 1967 and had retired from most of her active teaching duties in recent years, died Dec. 7 at her home in Bethesda, Md. Her family indicated that the cause of death was congestive heart failure.

As one of Georgetown’s leading political theorists and foreign relations experts, both before and after she came to international prominence during her tenure as U.N. ambassador from 1981 to 1985, Kirkpatrick had a profound impact on the university’s scholarship and its reputation as a global hub for the study of international affairs, faculty and former students said.

Robert Lieber, a government professor who met Kirkpatrick after she returned to her academic work at Georgetown in 1985, said that she had become a well-known voice on political affairs even before she first joined Reagan’s circle of confidants as a foreign policy advisor in 1980.

“She was a very principled individual. She was principled but not polemical,” Lieber said. “She was also very much respected by her colleagues in the government department, whether or not they agreed with her political views, as a person of integrity and a generous and sympathetic colleague.”

But one of Kirkpatrick’s most enduring legacies on the Georgetown campus as well as the wider American policymaking community may have been the example she set for the empowerment of women in government and academia, according to Mark Lagon (GRD ’91), one of her former students and aides.

Lagon, now the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for the bureau of international organization affairs, said that his time as a doctoral student studying under Kirkpatrick, and later as her teaching assistant and aide at American Enterprise Institute, had shown him how seriously she considered her role as a top female policymaker.

“She pointed out the ways in which one can be a constructive feminist” through her tenacity and the depth of her ideological convictions, Lagon said. “It made a very strong impression on me, even being a man.”

Others at Georgetown who knew Kirkpatrick, including the current chair of the government department, George Shambaugh, pointed to her willingness to engage theorists and advocates across the political spectrum as one of her most remarkable qualities as a professor.

“She has a very strong following in terms of faculty and students. She had a very significant and important impact on the department,” Shambaugh said. “She represents an ideal of linking Georgetown and the policy community.”

Kirkpatrick remained active on campus even after she resigned from most of her day-to-day responsibilities, teaching occasional seminars and attending policy discussions. In 2003, she agreed to chair the American delegation to the U.N. Human Rights Commission.

She also supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, publicly refuting claims that the action was illegal because it had not been explicitly authorized by the United Nations.

“The United States has never taken the position that any use of force has had to have authorization of the U.N. Security Council,” Kirkpatrick said during a speech in ICC Auditorium in September 2003. She cited American military efforts in Europe, Korea and Haiti as examples that preemptive action in the absence of a clear, direct threat had been seen as justified in the past.

“Even after she retired, she was still a force in the government department,” Government Professor Anthony Arend said. “We definitely mourn her loss and miss her.”

Shambaugh said that the university planned to hold a panel discussion on campus in memory of Kirkpatrick’s service as a scholar, teacher and practitioner, and that there will likely be a donor-funded effort to endow a new chair in the department in her memory. The panel is scheduled to take place in March, following a public memorial service at the National Cathedral in early February.

But as work continues to honor Kirkpatrick’s contributions to the university community, her former colleagues and students say that she has already been memorialized, in the enduring impression she left on those who she taught and debated during four decades in academic and public life.

“Her personality was one of being willing to debate and being forthright and assertive and making both politicians and students learn to really stand by their positions . to be true to your ideals, true to your beliefs, and stand firm,” Shambaugh said. “That strength of character, that conviction to principle . [leaves a] lasting legacy both toward the students and toward the policy world as well.”

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