Diane Falk graduated from GS in 1973 and took a special message from her graduation’s occurrence on Valentine’s Day: the importance of keeping her head and heart together. Through her career she has kept that lesson in mind, and the work she holds closest to her heart is the contribution she made to the legacy of her father, former GS student Lee Falk.
Lee Falk was best known for creating, writing, and illustrating two of the earliest super hero comic strips. Mandrake the Magician and The Phantom dealt with cartoon villains as well as real-world issues like human rights and injustice. Starting his career in the 1930s, Falk’s comics quickly became popular, boasting more than 100 million readers daily at their peak.
Also active in the theater world, Falk ran several theaters over the course of his life, ranging in location from Boston to the Bahamas, and produced and directed hundreds of plays, many attracting famous actors such as Marlon Brando and Ethel Waters.
Though Falk died in 1999, his comics live on, with reprints circulating in hundreds of newspapers around the globe. In addition, his daughter contributed to two recent publications: The Phantom Chronicles, Vol. 2, a continuation of the story in The Phantom, and Lee Falk: Storyteller, a biography.
Diane has also contributed to many books, magazines, and websites including Youth Issues and Media Influences, Best Practices for Government Libraries, and the New World Encyclopedia, and was the Head Librarian and Director of the Research Department for the World & I magazine, an affiliate of the Washington Times Corporation. With more than 100 employees creating 700 pages of content per month at its peak, the magazine is an “encyclopedic interdisciplinary journal,” Falk said. Her job was to research and find professors, artists, and experts from various fields to contribute to the magazine, as well as to write a few articles herself. Falk described her 21 years working there as a “unique experience for which [she is] profoundly grateful.” She is still associated with the magazine, and currently works as an Education Program Associate.
Falk’s experience with education continued with a position teaching English and an Introductory Writing Course at the Washington Saturday College, an affiliate of Howard University in Washington, D.C. that uses volunteers to teach classes for those with limited access to higher education. The program grants transferable credits and allows people to gain “new knowledge and new accomplishment,” Falk said.
Her educational journey continued in 1992, when she went to Ukraine as one of 300 staff members to teach classes for 3000 students from the recently-dissolved Soviet Union. This experience stayed with her, and she explained that the students were not lacking in vibrance or intelligence, but in material things. They had “threadbare clothing” and almost no school supplies, Falk said, adding that “[students] would come to my door…asking to see my watch and my headphones and my radio,” because their families had never owned such items.
Falk and the other instructors visited towns where the only major building was a church. Inside the church they had to stand since there were “no chairs or books…all they had was the memory of the liturgies,” she said. Falk was struck not only by the lack of material wealth, but also by the way people reacted to their republic’s new independence. “[P]eople would come running over and say ‘How do you build a new country?’…It was a new wilderness [for them],” she said. The Ukraine program was associated with the Unification Church, of which Falk is an active member. Along with her involvement in their education programs, she is also a part of the church’s Ambassadors for Peace and Family and Women’s Federation for World Peace programs, both of which advocate for an interfaith dialogue to promote peace and understanding.