Jan Scott ‘68: Retired Foreign Diplomat

By Jan Scott ‘68

I always had a dream to work for the Foreign Service, but I was clueless on how to reach that goal. I graduated from St. Anne’s in 1968, and it took me over 30 more years to obtain my next degree! It was a transitional time in American social history, and I chose the route to the “MRS degree” first.

I did not perform to my ability at St. Anne’s, and I believe the School was hoping I would turn out to be a productive, honest graduate and have a good, healthy life. Years later, I believe I shocked even Ms. Pamela Malone from St. Anne’s.

During my career as a stay-at-home mother, I had always been a political activist and eventually had the opportunity to take a position with a member of Congress. While in this role for 20 years, I also had the opportunity to take a sabbatical and work for the Bush-Cheney 2000 presidential campaign, meeting many who would ultimately be in the administration. This served as my introduction into the world of diplomacy.

At age 53, I sat for the Foreign Service written and oral exams and passed. I am proof that you can have a second career later in life.

My first posting was to Copenhagen to work with the ambassador. I must have had a magic wand floating over my head for the next 12 years, because I received every post I wanted. I lived and worked in Washington, D.C.; Beijing and Guangzhou, China; Dili, Timor-Leste; Vientiane, Laos; Baghdad, Iraq; and finally London, U.K. It was an incredible way to see the world and become multi-cultural.

Speaking is a natural barrier in the countries in which you work, but diplomacy also has a special language. Between every post, you attend the George Schultz Foreign Service Institute in Washington. It's a small campus, the curricula ranging from language and history to classes on diplomacy. Probably the hardest class was six hours of Mandarin every day for three months.

I was not a gifted writer, but over time bolts of lightning would flash through my gray matter, and I would remember the things I should have grasped in Ms. Malone’s history class years before. Along with a strict grammarian and assistance over the years from former classmate Elise Amory Miller ‘68, I was polished into a pretty good writer. When you are writing reporting cables at State, you learn quickly how to be concise with all the bits of information in the cable.

I have incredible memories of my career in the Foreign Service. The State Department has approximately 15,000 employees, but only about a third of them are members of the Foreign Service, the smallest agency in the U.S. government. I felt privileged to be one of those 5,000. My memories are so vast, all my postings had unbelievable remembrances. Working on presidential and secretary of state visits and parliaments in every country are wonderful standouts.

I cherish my time at St. Anne’s and have been faithful in keeping my ties to the School close. I contribute to the Annual Fund and have a close group of friends from the School with whom I am in touch constantly. I even flew from China to Charlottesville for the School's 100th anniversary year celebration. I have recently been asked to sit on the Alumni Board, so I look forward to strengthening ties even tighter.

My parents instilled a stable family life and St. Anne’s deepened those values. Academically, I wish I could have a re-do, but all-in-all I would not change anything else.