After a week in a coma following an electrical fire in a Paris hotel, Georgetown government professor Joseph S. Lepgold died around 10 p.m. Monday in a Paris hospital. His wife, Nicki Dean, remains in critical condition in Le Bicitre Hospital just outside Paris. Their 10-year-old son Jordan died of fire-related injuries last week.
School of Foreign Service Dean Robert Gallucci received news of Lepgold’s death at L’hopital Cochin by phone from one of the professor’s seven family members who have been in Paris for the past week. Lepgold, his wife and son had been hospitalized after suffering carbon monoxide poisoning from a fire that broke out on the third floor of Hotel L’Academie. They were staying on the fifth floor of the hotel while in Paris for Thanksgiving break. Lepgold was speaking at a conference titled “America, Europe and the World in the 21st Century.”
“Joe was young, he had his whole career in front of him. He was committed to the university,” University Registrar John Q. Pierce said. “He was a great teacher. I know how hard he worked to be a good scholar and a good teacher. It’s a great loss for the students of Georgetown.”
A gathering of friends and family in the ICC Galleria Monday evening drew approximately 100 people who showed support for Lepgold and his family. “We shared our stories of Joe – his commitment to teaching and dedication to his students, his excitement and passion in his scholarship, his zest for living, his love of family and this community,” Provost Dorothy Brown said in a broadcast e-mail.
Pierce said most of the community, though deeply saddened by Lepgold’s death, had already begun to prepare itself for the worst. “The situation was very grave from the beginning. We had hope, but there wasn’t any encouraging news all along,” he said. “I’ve been at Georgetown for a long time, and I can’t remember a semester as sad as this past one.”
Lepgold was a professor in the Government department and the SFS. He earned his Ph.D. in Political Science from Stanford University in 1987 and had worked at Georgetown for 11 years. A leading expert in his field, his fifth book was scheduled for release before the end of the year and his work had been published internationally. Lepgold’s colleagues described him as passionate about his profession and dedicated to the university and its importance in the development of future international relations scholars and leaders.
“He was very involved in his profession – he was one of the top people in International Relations,” Government Professor Andrew Bennett said. His passion for the field was something he tried to transfer to his students, Government Professor George Shambaugh said. “He was committed to scholarship, to giving students the skills that allow them to contribute to the field as scholars.”
Lepgold’s wife is still in a coma. Pierce said one of Dean’s colleagues from the Social Security Administration informed him that there had been “no change” in her condition. Dean worked for ten years in the Office of the University Registrar and earned her master’s degree in Public Policy from Georgetown. As Dean’s former colleague, Pierce has been in regular contact with the family and said the university has tried its best to be of service to the families of Lepgold and Dean. “We are doing whatever is necessary to help.”
Gallucci said the university plans to organize a memorial service for Lepgold; however, scheduling a specific date has proven a difficult task. Gallucci said that he felt a student presence at the service would be appropriate but because the date of the service must be convenient for the Lepgold family to travel to Washington, he could not say for sure that it would be arranged before the end of the semester. According to Pierce, family services will probably be held in Wisconsin, where relatives of Lepgold and Dean live.