Condoleezza Rice came to the University of Denver with the drive to succeed, but it took an international politics course to ignite the purpose that led her to make a difference in the world.

Condoleezza Rice and her DU student ID

"Birmingham was a very unusual place to grow up in the late '50s and 1960s. It... really was the epicenter of Jim Crow and the segregated South."

Condoleezza Rice as a girl with mother

Dr. Rice was born and raised in segregated Birmingham, Ala., the heart of the civil rights battles of the 1960s. The close-knit Rice family raised Condoleezza to be strong and honor her values.

Seeing the civil rights struggle at an early age taught Dr. Rice that strong, impassioned people can overcome tremendous odds.

Condoleezza Rice as a girl with books

"You were told in segregated Birmingham that if you ran twice as hard, you might get half as far.

And there were also people willing to run four times as hard so they could stay abreast.

And once in a while, somebody was willing to run eight times as hard so they could get ahead."

Young Condoleezza Rice and White House

"I grew up in an environment in which people had very high expectations and in which there were really no excuses."

Young Condoleezza Rice as student, skater, at piano

Dr. Rice’s first dream was to be a concert pianist.

Condoleezza Rice at DU with parents

"Sometimes your passions come together in the most remarkable ways."

Mary Reed Building, University of Denver

Following her passion for music, Dr. Rice enrolled at the University of Denver in the fall of 1970, when she was 15 years old.

"Finally I wandered, junior year, spring quarter, into a class in international politics taught by Josef Korbel, Madeleine Albright’s father, and it was like finding love. Suddenly diplomacy, international relations, the Soviet Union, Russian—I knew what I wanted to be."

Condoleezza Rice and international studies class in 1970s
Josef Korbel and Condoleezza Rice in class

"Suddenly this world opened up to me, of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and I thought, that’s what I want to do."

Condoleezza Rice in college with student
Condoleezza Rice doctoral graduation

"I found not just a major, but a passion."

Condoleezza descending from airplane

"There's nothing quite like stepping off that plane as secretary of state, with the plane behind you saying United States of America."

Condoleezza Rice with Saudi Arabian representatives
Condoleezza Rice at state event
Condoleezza Rice and Nelson Mandela

After earning her PhD from the Korbel School at DU, Dr. Rice became the first woman to serve as national security advisor and the first African American woman to serve as secretary of state. Now she’s a faculty member at Stanford and works to improve K-12 education nationwide.

Condoleezza Rice and George W Bush

"I have an abiding confidence that we will have laid a firm foundation of principle—a foundation on which future generations will realize our nation's vision of a fully free, democratic and peaceful world."

Find your passion at the University of Denver.

Josef Korbel School of International Studies

Dr.Rice found her purpose at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, which focuses on training students to think beyond the Beltway with its interdisciplinary programs.

LEARN ABOUT THE KORBEL SCHOOL
Korbel class

The University of Denver

Learn more about the University of Denver, where you can find your passion and turn it into a life of purpose.

Experience 150 years of DU history through stories, artifacts, pictures and video in our interactive timeline.

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