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 American engagement with the world, Patterson saw the 1898 Spanish-American War as evidence that 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 then being established in Europe and at Harvard, Chicago, Georgetown and Yale.
Patterson recognized that the United States was becoming a world power, and believed that Americans needed preparation for this responsibility. He had a clear vision of this preparation. In 1903, speaking in Washington on "Education and Empire," Patterson declared that students must become not only as scholars and scientists, but also citizens who will be engaged in shaping the destinies of the world. This philosophy - requiring the integration of 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.
But 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 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 matured enough - with help from the Commonwealth of Kentucky - to launch the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce.
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 level for students seeking professional careers in international affairs. Starting with 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 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 now has over a thousand alumni and has 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 their collective academic and practical experience to bear. The founding director, Amry Vandenbosch, 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) prior to taking the helm of Patterson. An expert on Southeast Asia, Vandenbosch also served on the Trusteeship Committee at the 1945 San Francisco Conference that founded the United Nations.
Taking over in 1972, 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 until 1993, leaving an unmistakable imprint on the School and the University. John Stempel served as a career Foreign Service officer 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 remained on the faculty through 2013. Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh led the Patterson School 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.
The Patterson School is currently led by Interim Director Dr. Kathleen Montgomery, a professionally trained economist who spent more than a decade leading USAID-funded trade projects before coming to the Patterson School. Dr. Montgomery has been with the Patterson School since 2014.
For over sixty years, the Patterson School has remained faithful to the vision of providing students from across Kentucky, the nation and the world with the practical education needed to engage effectively in diplomacy, international affairs and commerce.