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Carol Laise, SPA/BA ’38

N Carol Laise, SPA/BA 38

o one could deny that Carol Laise lived by her own advice when, in 1966, she declared, “They don’t automatically think a woman can do the job. But if she proves she can, it operates on an individual basis… it’s a matter of talent, not a matter of sex.”

Graduating from American University in 1938 with her BA in political science, she soon forged a path through the State Department, becoming the highest ranking woman in the Department by the time of her 1973 appointment as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. 

Following her studies at AU and subsequent MA from George Washington University in 1940, Laise travelled to post-war London in 1946 to work with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. She began her remarkable career with the State Department in 1948, serving as an adviser from 1956 to 1961 before becoming deputy director to the Bureau of South Asian Affairs in 1962. After a year’s station in New Delhi and guiding Vice President Hubert Humphrey on his travels through India and Pakistan, Laise was named U.S. Ambassador to Nepal in 1966, making her the fifth woman to hold the rank of ambassador. Throughout much of her eight year tenure in Kathmandu, she made monthly visits to Saigon while her husband, Amb. Ellsworth Bunker, attempted to stabilize the situation in South Vietnam.

By 1973, Laise was called back to Washington to be sworn in as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. Appointed director general of the Foreign Service the following year, she held the highest non-political post there until her retirement in 1977.

In recognition of her outstanding contributions in government service, Laise won the Federal Women’s Award in 1965 and in 1973 received the Career Service Award for the National Civil Service League. She succumbed to cancer in 1991, passing away at the age of 73.