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The Washington Diplomat

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Harriman’s Legacy Endures

by Suzanne Kurtz

More than 150 guests gathered inside one of the elegant reception rooms at the U.S. Department of State, named for America’s first ambassador to France, Benjamin Franklin, to honor another U.S. ambassador to France — the late and equally elegant Pamela Harriman — and to celebrate the Foreign Service fellowship named in her memory.

Photos: Haddad Media
U.S. Chief of Protocol Capricia Penavic Marshall gives remarks at a reception to honor former U.S. Ambassador to France Pamela Harriman and to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Pamela Harriman Foreign Service Fellowship Program.

On June 27, the crowd of diplomats, scholars, fellowship alumni and personal friends spoke of Harriman’s life and legacy and commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Pamela Harriman Foreign Service Fellowship Program.

Harriman was born in 1920 and raised in the English countryside, the daughter of a baron. In 1939, she married Randolph Churchill, the son of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. They had one son before divorcing in 1945. She moved to the United States in the late 1950s before marrying Broadway producer Leland Hayward. After Hayward died in 1971, she became reacquainted with W. Averell Harriman whom she had first met in London during World War II.

Over the years, Harriman became known not only for her marriages to wealthy men, but her numerous rumored affairs with prominent men ranging from Edward R. Murrow to Frank Sinatra to Prince Aly Khan.

President Emeritus Timothy J. Sullivan of the College of William and Mary, top left, and Jennie Churchill, Pamela Harriman’s granddaughter, top right, pose with former Harriman Fellows.

But later in life, Harriman stepped out from behind the powerful men she’d been linked to and became a political force in her own right.

A former governor of New York and a prominent diplomat, her third husband introduced her to the world of Democratic politics and she accompanied him on many of his foreign travels. In 1971, Pamela Harriman became a U.S. citizen and a prolific fundraiser for the Democratic Party. In 1993, President Bill Clinton named her U.S. ambassador to France. While swimming at the Hôtel Ritz in Paris in 1997, she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died just before what would’ve been her 77th birthday.

From left, President Emeritus Timothy J. Sullivan of the College of William and Mary, Jennie Churchill, and French Ambassador François Delattre attend a reception at the State Department in honor of Churchill’s grandmother, Pamela Harriman.

Established by the College of William and Mary, the Harriman Fellowships grant three rising juniors or seniors, or a recent graduate continuing directly to graduate studies, summer placements at either the U.S. Embassy in London, the U.S. Embassy in Paris or the Office of the Secretary of State in Washington, D.C. Each of the locations are symbolic of a significant place in Harriman’s life.

Each Harriman Fellow receives a $5,000 stipend for travel and living expenses. Since it inception, there have been 40 students from 28 colleges and universities who have participated in the fellowship program.

From left, Judith Kipper, Gloria Bold, Janet Howard (former chief of staff to Pamela Harriman), Jennie Churchill, and Tammy Haddad attend a reception in honor of Pamela Harriman.

Andrew Blasi, who served as the Harriman Fellow at the U.S. Embassy in London during the summer of 2008, attended the gathering at the State Department with his fellow alumni. Blasi is currently working in D.C. as a consultant for an international trade and regulatory firm.

“There’s no question that the fellowship was an invaluable experience and set me on the right path and got me where I am today,” he said. “It was a wonderful experience, not only being in London, but the substantial guidance and insight of the [Harriman Fellowship Advisory Board].”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), center, greets Heather Foley and former Speaker of the House Thomas S. Foley at a reception in honor of Pamela Harriman.

Formal remarks during the gathering were given by several speakers including U.S. Chief of Protocol Capricia Penavic Marshall, College of William & Mary President Emeritus Timothy J. Sullivan, French Ambassador François Delattre, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), former Michigan Gov. James J. Blanchard, and Harriman’s granddaughter Jennie Churchill, a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in London. Also in attendance were former House Speaker Tom Foley (D-Wash.) and former Virginia Gov. Charles Robb.

Marshall said it was Harriman’s destiny “to leave a mark, to leave this country and the world far better than she found it. It was also her destiny to inspire future generations of young people that never had the privilege of meeting her. Through these fellowships, Ambassador Harriman continues to inspire the very best of new generations to pursue careers in public service.”

After Harriman died in 1997, she was awarded the National Order of the Legion of Honor by French President Jacques Chirac. Delattre noted that during the presentation ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, President Chirac said of Harriman, “Today the United States’s oldest ally mourns the death of a great ambassador. Two centuries ago, Benjamin Franklin and then Thomas Jefferson represented in Paris a nascent America. In 1993, President Bill Clinton chose an exceptional person to follow in their footsteps. Today France loses a friend.”

About the Author

Suzanne Kurtz is a freelance writer for The Washington Diplomat.




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