Welcome to the Patterson School of Diplomacy at the University of Kentucky
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Vandenbosch with students Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders

Vision and Origins

The vision to create a school of diplomacy and international commerce came from Dr. James Kennedy Patterson, the first president of the University of Kentucky. Long an advocate for greater US engagement in the world, the 1898 Spanish-American War convinced Patterson a new school was needed that "shall have for its special object the preparation of young men for the diplomatic and consular service of the United States. It shall also provide special training for those who may seek employment in extending upon rational and scientific lines the commercial relations of America." Patterson took as his model the programs he saw then being established in Europe and at Harvard, Chicago, Georgetown and Yale.

Patterson recognized that the United States was becoming a political and commercial world power and believed new academic institutions were needed to properly prepare Americans for this role. He also had a clear vision about how they should be educated. In 1903, speaking in Washington, DC on "Education and Empire," Patterson declared students must be educated not only as scholars and scientists, but as citizens who will be engaged in shaping the destinies of the world. This philosophy - requiring that students be exposed to both theory and practice - has always been at the core of the Patterson School. Patterson also singled out early on the importance of foreign language study and ethics training - those too remain essential components of our curriculum.

UK President James Kennedy Patterson

Plans for a new institution centered on diplomatic and commercial training ran afoul of an abysmal budget situation at the start of the 20th century. The new state university Patterson led was struggling to survive. Indeed, he tapped his own personal resources to construct the university’s first buildings. When he retired in 1910, his dream remained unfulfilled, but not forgotten. A trust established by Patterson's will in 1922 allocated almost his entire estate for the creation of a college of diplomacy (the school was to be named for his deceased son, William Andrew Patterson). To make his vision a reality, however, the bequest had to be invested for decades. While the endowment was not large enough to fully fund Patterson's ambitious vision, by 1959 it had increased enough - with additional funding from the Commonwealth of Kentucky - to launch the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce.

UK President James Kennedy Patterson

From the beginning, the Patterson School program was designed exclusively for graduate students. Initially, both masters and doctoral degrees were offered. In 1970, however, the decision was made to concentrate solely on training at the masters degree level for students seeking professional careers in international affairs. From three jointly appointed faculty members in 1960, the Patterson School acquired its first core faculty in 1972 and began a strengthening of its interdisciplinary nature (drawing upon associated faculty from across the entire university) that continues to this day. The program was originally housed on campus in a surplus army barracks best known to students and faculty as "Splinter Hall." The School moved to the Patterson Office Tower after its construction in 1969 and remains there today. While the program has purposely remained small and focused, it has produced nearly a thousand alumni and built a reputation as one of the leading institutions in its field.


The Patterson School thrived under a series of strong, long-term, directors - Amry Vandenbosch, Vince Davis, John Stempel, Carey Cavanaugh - who brought academic and practical experience to bear to promote professional educaton. Amry Vandenbosch was the founding director of the new school. He had been chairman of UK's Political Science Department for over 20 years and had served in the State Department and the Office of Strategic Services (the precursor to the CIA), working in Washington, Ceylon, and India. His regional area of expertise was Southeast Asia. Vandenbosch also served on the Trusteeship Committee at the 1945 San Francisco Conference that founded the United Nations.

Founding Patterson School Director Amry Vandenbosch  Patterson School Director Vince Davis  Patterson School Director John Stempel  Patterson School Director Carey Cavanaugh

In a similar vein, Vince Davis had military experience as an intelligence officer and naval aviator (serving in Korea), along with previous academic appointments at Princeton, Dartmouth, and Denver. He served as director from 1972 until 1993. John Stempel was a career Foreign Service officer at the State Department serving in Guinea, Burundi, Zambia, and Iran, ultimately becoming Consul General in Madras (now Chennai), India. His regional focus was the Middle East. Stempel came to Patterson in 1988 from the US Naval Academy, was director from 1993 until 2003, and served on the faculty through 2013. Carey Cavanaugh served as director from 2006 - 2016. This followed a Foreign Service career centered on Europe, conflict resolution, and humanitarian efforts. In addition to Washington assignments at the State Department, Pentagon, and Capital Hill he was assigned to US diplomatic missions in Germany, the Soviet Union, Italy and Switzerland, serving in Moscow as Germany reunified and the Soviet Union dissolved. In 1992, he established the first US Embassy in Georgia and was later confirmed as Ambassador and special negotiator for Eurasian conflicts under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

Original Patterson School seal

Current Patterson School sealFor almost sixty years, the Patterson School has remained faithful to the vision of providing students from across Kentucky, the nation and the world with the theoretical and practical education needed to engage effectively in diplomacy, international affairs and commerce.
Evolution of our Seal

History Gallery

Patterson School | 455 POT, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506-0027 | 859-257-4666

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