Skip to content

The Center for International Affairs and World Cultures hosts two Flemister Fellows per year.  Fellows are selected from the undergraduate International Affairs Program in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities.  As affiliates of the CIAWC, fellows receive support from the Flemister Fund and faculty mentorship to pursue research and experiential learning opportunities related to international affairs. This endowed program, in honor of Zandra Flemister, seeks to encourage students to pursue a career in foreign service.

The Center for International Affairs and World Cultures is proud to announce the Flemister Fellows. The program is named after Zandra Flemister, the first Black woman selected to be a Secret Service special agent. During her four years in the Secret Service, she protected the family members of Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter (1974-1978).

Flemister was born November 21, 1951 at the 97th General Hospital in Frankfurt, Germany in the then U.S. Zone of Occupation. Her father was a U.S. Army Sergeant and her mother was a U.S. government microfilm technician.

At age 5, Flemister moved to the US and grew up in East Hartford Connecticut. Her mother, Pearl Flemister was active in the Civil Rights Movement and brought Zandra along with her to the 1963 March on Washington. They rallied at Union Station near the Capital and marched from there to the Mall.

At age 16, Flemister was part of the Poor People Campaign March on Washington in the months following the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King. A little later she joined the Poor People’s Campaign contingent protesting outside the Democratic Convention in Chicago.

In 1969, Flemister was accepted to Northeastern and its’ Black Studies Summer Institute, an earlier iteration of the present John D. O’Bryant African American Institute. Flemister received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science at Northeastern in 1973. She went on to receive her Master’s degree in Military Logistics at the National Defense University in 2003.

At Northeastern, Flemister studied abroad in the Soviet Union and Mexico.

She joined the State Department in 1978 as a Foreign Service Officer. The Foreign Service was her lifelong goal, and she loved consular work.

She had 30 years of State Department experience including running interagency visa screening programs in Pakistan and South Korea, establishing a multinational anti-visa fraud working group in London, and extensive counter-narcotics experience in Pakistan and the department Attained rank of Senior Foreign Service Officer. She won a Superior Honor Award for her role in the aftermath of the October 2005 South Asia Earthquake, handled two very sensitive visa cases under congressional and press scrutiny and oversaw the administrative arrangements after a fatal terrorist attack.

She retired in 2011 and passed away in February 2023 at the age of 71.

To learn more about Zandra Flemister, read her biography here.

Zandra Flemister, the first Black woman special agent in the Secret Service is seen here escorting Prime Minister of Jamaica Michael Manley (right) during his 1977 visit to Washington.
Flemister pictured in Havana, Cuba during a 2007 inspection team visit.