The Foreign Service Journal, May 2022

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MAY 2022 69 and taught American history at Cente- nary College in Shreveport, La. In the early 1970s, the State Depart- ment relaxed its ban on both members of a couple working for the agency, and Ms. Oakley was reinstated in the Foreign Service in 1974. She once again began at an entry-level position before slowly carving out an expertise in Arab-Israeli relations and the Panama Canal Treaty. She accompanied her husband to Africa when he was named ambassador to Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in 1979, and she served as an employee of the U.S. Information Agency, not under his direct supervi- sion. He later served as ambassador to Somalia in 1982. Ms. Oakley was working in a mid- level job on the Afghan desk when in 1984 her skillful appearance on PBS’ “MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour” one night attracted the attention of Secretary of State George P. Shultz. Two years later, he tapped her as deputy spokesperson for the department. She did that job from 1986 until 1989, when her husband was appointed ambassador to Pakistan. The Oakleys did not want to be sepa- rated again, so she worked at the USAID mission. Amb. Oakley retired from the Senior Foreign Service in 1991 and fully sup- ported his wife’s career until she retired. Phyllis Oakley was the first female staff assistant to work on the seventh floor, alongside the highest-level State Department officials. Her 25-year diplomatic career culminated in assign- ments as the first assistant secretary of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (1994-1997) and as deputy director and, later, the first female assis- tant secretary of the Bureau of Intelli- gence and Research (1997-1999). After her retirement in 1999, Ms. Oakley worked as an adjunct profes- sor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and as a visiting professor at Mount Holyoke College and Northwestern. Both as an active-duty officer and a retiree, Phyllis Oakley delighted in serving as a mentor. In addition, she took part in numerous symposia as a pioneering female FSO, such as a 2015 ADST panel discussion, “Cracking the Glass Ceiling: A Conversation with Foreign Service Women.” Her thoughtful recommendation of the Foreign Service as a career, “I Would Do It All Again,” appeared in the December 1999 FSJ . Fittingly, Ms. Oakley also contrib- uted a chapter titled “Paving the Way for Women” to the first edition of AFSA’s Inside a U.S. Embassy (1996), also published in the 2003 edition. Reflecting on her career, she concluded: “In spite of the danger, sharp shards left in the breached glass ceiling, and complexi- ties of family life, I still see the Foreign Service as the most interesting and worthwhile career in the world. I am pleased that so many outstanding young people still seem to agree.” She was predeceased by her hus- band in 2014 and is survived by her son, Thomas Oakley, of McLean, Va., her daughter, Mary Kress, of Falls Church, Va., and five grandchildren. n If you would like us to include an obituary in In Memory, please send text to . Be sure to include the date, place and cause of death, as well as details of the individual’s Foreign Service career. Please place the name of the AFSA member to be memorialized in the subject line of your email.