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An International Life Inspires an International Gift

Story by
Nancy Joseph

“I wanted to do something that would be practical.” 

That was Alice Wanamaker’s main thought as she pondered careers after graduating from the UW in 1939 with a degree in nutritional sciences. “The careers that were open to women were teacher, nurse, and secretary,” she recalls.

Wanamaker chose the secretarial route. The career was practical, but employment in the Foreign Service made it anything but ordinary. 

Alice Wanamaker (left) met with recipients of her Jackson School scholarship in 2006.

Alice Wanamaker (left) met with recipients of her Jackson School scholarship in 2006. Media credit: Nancy Joseph

Wanamaker learned about the Foreign Service from her brother, a Foreign Service Officer. Assigned to the U.S. Information Service, her first Foreign Service job was in Oslo, Norway. Posts in Warsaw, Poland and Sofia, Bulgaria followed. “I requested assignments in Iron Curtain countries because I wanted to see what living under communism was like,” she explains. 

When Wanamaker arrived in Warsaw, the city was only partially rebuilt after having been destroyed in World War II. Under the communist regimes in Poland and Bulgaria, it was risky for local citizens to get close to Americans, so most of her friends were other Foreign Service staffers.

In contrast, Bonn, Germany—Wanamaker’s next assignment—was “wide open.” She went on to work in Bangkok, Thailand and Budapest, Hungary before retiring in 1975.

Wanamaker’s wanderlust continued after retirement and included several international trips with the UW Alumni Association. (“They were excellent,” she says.) But she also has enjoyed being in Seattle, where she served as a docent at the Seattle Art Museum for many years.

More than 70 years after arriving at the UW as a freshman, Wanamaker visits 
the Seattle campus frequently, taking in concerts, lectures, and other events. A 
long-time donor to the UW School of Medicine, she recently made a substantial gift to the Jackson School of International Studies. 

The focus of her gift? Scholarships for students pursuing internships or, fittingly, study abroad opportunities.