Randy Bumgardner is one of two LMU graduates former LMU Professor of History Dr. Joseph Suppiger remembers who “seemed destined to serve their country in the State Department. “He was always anxious to help others and was intensely curious about other nations and our relations with them.”
Randy Bumgardner (a.k.a. Randy Nolan to students from the early 1980’s) is Assistant Chief of Protocol and General Manager of Blair House in Washington, D.C. Blair House was a private residence from its building in 1824 until 1942 when the last Blair family member sold the home to Franklin Roosevelt. Roosevelt was specifically looking for a residence near the White House, which could be used as an official guest house for foreign guests. The home was immediately put under the control of the Chief of Protocol who coordinates the visits by world leaders. Today, the complex is a well-fortified home away from home for the nation’s foreign guests.
Bumgardner graduated from LMU in 1983 with a bachelor of arts degree in museum science and history. According to Suppiger, Randy “was an excellent student of history and, more importantly, a fine and refined gentleman. The history department of the early 1980’s, then a part of the busy Humanities Division, along with Phi Alpha Theta history honorary and the new Lincoln Museum, all vied with one another for his time. Graciously, he granted it freely.”
In the summer of 1982 he was accepted into the Summer Intern Program of the Department of State on the recommendation of former Alumni Relations Director Georgia Baker. He spent three months working at the State Department before returning to complete his last year at LMU.
“Tears always come to my eyes when I think of the late Georgia Baker,” says Bumgardner. “She was one of the most generous and gracious ladies I have ever known.
She called me one afternoon and asked that I come to her office. When I got there she told me of an opportunity to spend the summer of my junior year in Washington at the State Department. I couldn’t believe it. She supported the idea totally and instilled in me the real possibility that the State Department would be interested in a kid from the hills of Tennessee. I did get that summer job, thanks to Georgia, and I often tell people that I am in my 19th year of my summer internship.”
In May 1983 the State Department called Bumgardner and asked if he would be interested in returning on a full time basis.
“I flew to Washington the morning after graduation,” recalls Bumgardner. “In mid 1984 it was suggested that I might enjoy working in the Office of Protocol. An interview was set up, and I met with President Reagan’s Chief of Protocol, Selwa “Lucky” Roosevelt. She was married to Theodore Roosevelt’s grandson. Ambassador Roosevelt was concerned that my youth might not fit the prestigious office until she asked where I was from. She was raised in Johnson City, Tennessee, and I was hired into her office.”
Bumgardner began working with the foreign guests of the President and remembers well the first world leader he ever met, Margaret Thatcher. He volunteered for every assignment he could get, whether it be late nights, weekends or holidays.
Just as he came into the Office of Protocol, Blair House was closing to begin a six-year renovation. By the time the renovation was nearly complete, Bumgardner’s interest in museum work and history was well known and this prompted Ambassador Roosevelt to send him to Blair House for one year.
“My assignment,” he chuckles, “was to catalog every object in the 119 room mansion. Thus, I became intimately acquainted with the house and its contents. By the time the Deputy General Manager resigned in 1992, I was the candidate of choice to fill that position, and then in July of this year, when the General Manager retired, I was appointed by the current Chief of Protocol to the General Manager’s position. The rank of the position was also elevated to Assistant Chief of Protocol.”
Regarding his memories of LMU, Bumgardner says there are many good ones. “For several years after I graduated, I felt a real sense of loss. LMU had become such a home to me that I missed being there and wanted to be back among the rolling hills of that beautiful campus.
“I tried to get back as often as I could from Washington. Slowly I began to realize it wasn’t the place I missed as much as it was the people, all those who had become my friends and family. I still feel that way. Many of the friends I made at LMU are still my closest friends, and I miss being with them. That includes students and faculty.