Carol J. Lancaster was dean of the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University from 2010 to 2014. (Photo by Andrew Propp/Washingtonian)

Carol J. Lancaster, a former State Department official who, as a scholar and dean at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, was among the first to highlight the importance of women’s empowerment as a key part of diplomacy and international development, died Oct. 22 at her home in Washington. She was 72.

The cause was a brain tumor, said her son, Douglas Farrar.

Dr. Lancaster was an assistant secretary of state for Africa before joining the faculty of Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service in 1981. She took a leave of absence from her academic work to serve as deputy administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development from 1993 to 1996.

In that role, she often traveled to developing countries with then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. With Clinton and former secretary of state Madeleine K. Albright, Dr. Lancaster helped establish the Vital Voices Global Partnership, a Washington-based organization promoting the international empowerment of women.

“Carol was an innovator in the field of international development and made an indelible contribution to American foreign policy,” Albright said in a statement released by Georgetown, where she is a professor of diplomacy. “In her work, she made clear the important force for good the United States must play in the world.”

After becoming dean of Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service in 2010, Dr. Lancaster launched master’s degree programs in Asian studies and global human development and organized Georgetown’s Institute for Women, Peace and Security.

The institute’s executive director, Melanne Verveer, said Dr. Lancaster recognized as early as the 1980s that there was a link between women’s issues and other matters related to international development and foreign policy.

“She recognized these were issues whose time had come,” Verveer said. “She’s had a significant mark in growing global citizenship and enabling women to see they had a broader role in society. In many ways, she played a pioneering role.”

In addition to her expertise on women’s issues, Africa and Latin America, Dr. Lancaster was considered a leading authority on foreign aid and economic development. She wrote several books, including “Foreign Aid: Diplomacy, Development, Domestic Politics” (2006), which examined the complicated forces surrounding international assistance efforts.

“She bridged the gap between the world of scholarship and academia,” former School of Foreign Service dean Robert Gallucci said, “and the real, practical world of policy. We are at our best when we are bridging that gap.”

Carol Jane Lancaster was born Aug. 23, 1942, in Washington and grew up in Prince George’s County. Her father was a factory worker, her mother a switchboard operator.

She graduated from Oxon Hill High School in 1960 and from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service in 1964. She then went to Bolivia to study on a Fulbright fellowship.

She later studied at the London School of Economics, where she received a doctorate in economics in 1972. She traveled frequently in the Middle East and became proficient in Arabic, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish and Russian.

In the 1970s, Dr. Lancaster worked as a federal budget examiner and later held staff jobs with Rep. David R. Obey (D-Wis.) and Sen. Richard C. Clark (D-Iowa). From 1977 to 1981, she worked for the State Department as a member of the policy planning staff and later as deputy assistant secretary of state for Africa.

When she was deputy administrator of USAID from 1993 to 1996, Dr. Lancaster testified on Capitol Hill to resist efforts by some conservatives to eliminate the agency. She consulted with the United Nations and World Bank and served on many advisory boards concerning international development and education. She published 10 books before stepping down as dean of the School of Foreign Service in April.

Her first marriage, to Mehdi Ali, ended in divorce.

Survivors include her husband of 34 years, former State Department official Curtis Farrar, and their son, Douglas Farrar, both of Washington; four stepchildren, John Farrar of Philadelphia, Cynthia Farrar of New Haven, Conn., Andrew Farrar of Boston and Erin Farrar of Portland, Ore.; and seven grandchildren.

Dr. Lancaster was known as someone who often entertained students and visiting scholars at her home. She played the harp, made jewelry and grew vegetables.

Although she spent much of her life traveling abroad and studying intricate issues of foreign policy, Dr. Lancaster also had a fondness for her home town. Shortly before her death, her son said, she completed a book about the history of Washington and the people who make the city their home.