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Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice Pay Tribute to the Late Madeleine Albright

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Emma Atkinson

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HIllary Clinton speaks on stage with Fritz Mayer.

Photo credit: Jamie Schwaberow

“A great daughter of DU.”

That’s how Condoleezza Rice, University of Denver alumna and former secretary of state, described the late Madeleine Albright, who blazed a trail for Rice and other women in government as the United States’ first female secretary of state.

At DU’s Korbel Honors program last week, the University of Denver posthumously honored Albright with the Josef Korbel Award. Rice’s video tribute to Albright came alongside another reverent testament to Albright’s legacy from the only other female former secretary, Hillary Clinton.

Clinton, Rice and other speakers—including Albright’s daughter, Alice Patterson Albright—spoke at length about Albright’s ties to DU through her father, Josef Korbel, a Czech American diplomat and the founder of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies.

Rice shared a story about how she first connected with Albright while Michael Dukakis was running for office in Massachusetts. Albright called Rice and asked if she’d be interested in advising on foreign policy for the Dukakis campaign.

“I paused. There was, frankly, a long pause,” Rice remembers. “And I said, ‘Madeleine, I'm a Republican.’ [Albright] kind of shrieked. ‘How could that be? We have the same father!’

“We did have the same intellectual father, Josef Korbel. And I am so grateful that Madeleine and I were able to become friends and colleagues and do so much together.”

Clinton’s arrival on stage was met with a standing ovation from the crowd. Whoops and cheers could be heard even as she sat down with Korbel School Dean Fritz Mayer.

Clinton recalled first hearing about Albright’s work during the political campaigns that Albright worked on—including the Dukakis campaign that Rice had remembered.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Photo credit: Jamie Schwaberow

“I was so excited when I learned that she had gone to Wellesley—we’re both Wellesley College graduates—and that she was interested in policy and politics, as was I,” Clinton said.

She told the story of how she and her husband, then-President Bill Clinton, came to the decision that he should nominate Albright as the first female secretary of state.

“I thought her values were really in line with Bill’s from the very beginning, in part because of her own background,” Clinton said. “She understood the danger posed by the war in the Balkans and the aggression that was taking place there…. And so I was a strong advocate of Madeleine's nomination to become secretary of state and, luckily, my husband agreed.”

Albright’s ties to both Wellesley College and the University of Denver were also a focus of the evening. Korbel professor Rachel Epstein used the event to announce a new partnership between Wellesley and Korbel: the Wellesley-Korbel Albright Fellows Program, which will allow Wellesley undergraduate students to continue their education at Korbel with a one-year master’s program.

The first class of Wellesley-Korbel Albright fellows will arrive at DU in the fall of 2024.

At the conclusion of the evening, Alice Patterson Albright took to the stage to remember her mother. She recalled spending much of her childhood on and around the DU campus—even playing with her sisters at Observatory Park.

Patterson Albright stressed the immense impact that her grandparents, Josef and Mandula, had on her love for the United States and for diplomacy.

“My mom inherited her parents’ love and gratitude for America,” she said. “She felt deeply motivated to give back to the country that had given her family a chance to win freedom. The way that she chose to serve shaped by her most important teachers—[Grandpa] and Grandma—who instilled in her fierce convictions and values that she carried to her final days.”

The Korbel Honors event also recognized the accomplishments of an outstanding professor and a notable alumna.

Professor Singumbe Muyeba was awarded the Korbel Outstanding Teaching Award, while Chilean Ambassador to the United Nations Claudia Fuentes Julio was honored with the Korbel Distinguished Alumni Award.