In Memoriam: Lois Herrmann

by Greta Morris

My friendship with Lois Herrmann is closely linked to both PDAA (the Public Diplomacy Association of America) and PDC (the Public Diplomacy Council). I first got to know Lois at the former USIA in the 1980s-90s, when she was working in the Public Affairs Office and I was in the Africa and East Asia Pacific area offices. We had friends in common and attended the same women’s group.

After I retired from the Foreign Service, Lois invited me to serve on the board of PDAA. And after Lois retired from the Civil Service a few years later, she asked me about joining PDC. We decided to have lunch together so that I could tell her more about PDC. It was during that lunch that we discovered how much we had in common: we had both majored in English and loved books. We liked the same kinds of plays, films, and music. We shared a similar world view. We even discovered that during the 1990’s, we were both members of the same church, but did not know it as it was a very large church and we were involved in different activities. We both greatly admired the senior pastor at the time, Dr. Craig Barnes.

Following that lunch, our friendship grew. We attended some wonderful plays at the Shakespeare Theater, programs at DACOR, films, and concerts together. We got together for lunch or dinner when we could. I felt that I could talk with Lois about anything and everything; she was an attentive and sympathetic listener. She had an infectious love of life and of her friends. She was committed to the things she cared about deeply. She worked tirelessly to help an immigrant family from the Middle East that her church had sponsored to come to the United States. She supported the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University (which had treated her mother); she supported the Shakespeare Theater.

After Lois became ill and was diagnosed with cancer, I was fortunate to be able to visit her several times and talk with her on the phone. I grew to admire her even more, as I saw her courage in the face of pain and increasingly dire prognoses. She was always gracious, considerate of her friends, and determined to overcome her illness. She never lost her radiant smile. When it became increasingly apparent that recovery would not be possible, she accepted that news with grace, faith, and dignity.

Mary Oliver poemLois loved poetry and wrote haiku. One of her favorite poets was Mary Oliver, who wrote in her poem The Summer Day: “Tell me what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”* Lois knew what she wanted to do: she lived her life with joy, love, faith, intention, and commitment to the things she cared about deeply. I will miss her greatly, but she will always be an example to me of how to live.

Ambassador Greta N. Morris is former President of the Public Diplomacy Association of America.


Lois Marie Herrmann (1945 – 2020)

Lois Marie Herrmann, beloved daughter of Helen and Gustav Herrmann of Long Island, New York, died on January 14, 2020, at Georgetown University Hospital, with loving friends at her bedside. A long-time resident of Washington, DC, Lois was 74 years old when overtaken by cancer after a battle in which she radiated grace and courage throughout. Her sudden passing has struck the hearts of her large family of devoted friends-here in Washington, across the United States, and overseas-with profound grief.

Lois was born in New York City on January 26, 1945, and grew up near the water on the North Shore of Long Island where she developed her life-long love of swimming. Her happiest memories were of summer swims in the ocean, swimming holes, and pools. Lois went on to earn her Bachelor’s degree at Cornell University and her Master’s at Stanford University.

Lois began her career at the Foreign Student Service Council in Washington, DC, and went on to become a highly accomplished member of the US Department of State, serving first in the Foreign Service and later in the Civil Service. She began her government career in the United States Information Agency (1976-1999) and concluded her fulltime State Department service in the Bureau of Public Affairs (1999-2014). She loved her overseas postings in Venezuela, Serbia, Bosnia, and Croatia. Writing and editing were key skills Lois put to great effect, drafting speeches, public testimony, and op-ed articles for senior State Department officials. She also played a leading role in press operations for several Presidential summits and major international conferences, including the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh (2009), the President’s Nuclear Security Summit in Washington (2010), and the G8 Summit in Camp David (2012). She was proud to have served on State Department-wide Task Forces on world political and humanitarian crises including South Sudan, Ukraine and the response to the Asian tsunami (2004). She also published travel articles in the Christian Science Monitor and The Washington Star.

Lois served as a member of the boards of the Public Diplomacy Association of America (PDAA); the Stanford University Alumni Association; and the Theodore H. Barth Foundation, Inc., a philanthropic foundation supporting community health and welfare and the arts.

After her retirement, she volunteered at the Smithsonian with the Steinway Diary Project before returning to work part-time at the State Department, and she enjoyed personal travel through much of the world.

Lois considered her life’s most important endeavor to have looked after her mother during her mother’s last 12 years. The devotion she gave to her mother was easily recognizable in the love she showed her friends, her close bonds with animals of every species-but especially cats-and the kindness, wisdom, and loyalty she gave to all. Her spirit had a beauty and tenderness that will forever touch the hearts of all those who will miss her so greatly.

A memorial service will be held at St. Columba’s Episcopal Church, 4201 Albemarle St. NW, Washington, DC, 20016, at 11 AM on Saturday, March 14, 2020. Reception to follow.

Donations in Lois’s memory may be made to St. Columba’s Episcopal Church.

Published online on January 21, 2020 courtesy of RAPP Funeral and Cremation Services .