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Photo of Father Walsh, standing in front of a world map

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The House That Walsh Built: A Century of Georgetown's School of Foreign Service

Special Collections Gallery
Charles Marvin Fairchild Memorial Gallery
September 23, 2019
January 31, 2020

The online version of this exhibition is under construction. Please check back for more content!


At the conclusion of World War One, the United States emerged as a leading nation in trade, international politics, and military power. The need for a school to train young people in global commerce, international diplomacy, and global affairs was apparent.

That school was founded at Georgetown as the School of Foreign Service in 1919, five years before the United States Foreign Service was created, with a mission marrying international affairs to Jesuit values of service. Initially placed in the hands of Father Edmund A. Walsh, the school educated many generations of leaders who would dominate their fields through the next century—contributing not only in diplomacy and business but also in culture, security, international development and other fields.

This exhibition traces the history of the Walsh School of Foreign Service, upon its centennial, through the stories of its architects, professors, students, and alumni.

Founding and Founder

In 1919, a well-traveled 34-year-old Jesuit priest, Fr. Edmund Walsh, helped Georgetown found a new school. Walsh imagined the School of Foreign Service, the first school of its kind in the United States, would educate students from a global perspective and advance the cause of peace. Today, the values that drive the SFS can be traced to its founding—and its founder.

Diplomacy and National Security

An interconnected world demands strong diplomatic ties among nations, and a strong defense. Nothing proved this more than the two World Wars which, in the early years of the SFS, left a wake of destruction around the world. In response, the SFS has established programs over decades to train a strong corps of diplomats and protect nations from conflict.

Heads of State

By finding and forming future leaders in international affairs, the SFS has empowered its values to shape the world. The students of the SFS have risen to the highest rungs of leadership around the world: prime ministers, presidents and even kings.

Women Pioneers

The last century’s movement for gender equality, which sought expanded opportunities for women in society, radically transformed Georgetown and the SFS. But the empowerment of women in the SFS did not merely follow a broader change in society. It was women pioneers in the SFS who—in many ways—spearheaded, championed, and accomplished that change.

SFS Deans and Professors

The SFS has continued to reach new heights thanks to decades of careful stewardship by distinguished faculty. The school has drawn professors and deans who have served at the highest levels of government, made groundbreaking achievements in academia, and earned their place in history for their contributions to the common good.

Arts, Culture, Media and the Future

Even heads of state must envy artists’ power to shape the world. As advances in technology change the way we connect, the importance of the media in international affairs is certain to grow. Media and culture tell the story of the past century, our place within it, and our ambitions for the next century of the School of Foreign Service.

Trade, Commerce and Economic Development

Of course, the SFS is not a school solely for diplomats or foreign policy professionals, and no one ever dreamed it would be. The founders envisioned a school that would mold international leaders, not only in public service, but also in the private sector. Business and trade play a central role in the international system—and, therefore, in the SFS curriculum as well. This principle is as old as the school itself and reflected in one of its first symbols: a merchant ship.