News & Stories

SIPA Remembers Madeleine Albright

Posted Mar 22 2022

SIPA remembers groundbreaking alumna Madeleine Albright, the first woman to serve as U.S. secretary of state.

A professor, author, diplomat, and business executive, Albright earned a certificate from the then SIA-affiliated* Russian Institute and her PhD from Columbia. She was a longtime member of the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies and in 2004-05 served as SIPA’s inaugural Saltzman visiting fellow. Albright visited the University frequently and was a featured speaker at SIPA’s graduation ceremony in May 2021.

As secretary of state from January 1997 through January 2001, Albright was, at that time, the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government. She had previously served, from 1993 to 1997, as the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations and was a member of the president’s cabinet.

At the time of her death Albright was a professor in the practice of diplomacy at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service; chair of Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm; and chair of Albright Capital Management, an investment advisory firm focused on emerging markets. She also chaired the National Democratic Institute, served as the president of the Truman Scholarship Foundation, and was honorary chair of the World Refugee and Migration Council.

In 2012, Albright was chosen by President Obama to receive the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in recognition of her contributions to international peace and democracy.

* At the time, SIPA was still known as the School of International Affairs, or SIA.

“With the passing of Madeleine Albright, We mourn the loss of a woman of uncommon grit, warmth, and character who devoted her remarkable talents to a life of public service and the protection of the vulnerable.”

— Read the full statement from President Lee C. Bollinger.

“SIPA and Columbia University are proud to call Secretary Albright one of our own.”

— Read the full statement from Interim Dean Thomas J. Christensen.

SIPA Faculty Remember Madeleine Albright

“I worked under Madeleine Albright [on Walter Mondale’s 1984 presidential campaign].... The work was grueling, around-the-clock, but Madeleine was unfailingly kind and cheerful irrespective of how dire each emergency seemed. Unlike too many practitioners she was never self-important or more demanding of her staff than of herself.”

— Read a remembrance from SIPA’s Richard K. Betts.

“During my years as Dean, [Madeleine Albright] joined us regularly and went out of her way to interact with SIPA faculty and students.... She also encouraged us to go out and make a difference. She did and we have all benefited from her contributions to the global community. We will miss her greatly.”

— Read a remembrance from SIPA’s Merit E. Janow.

“Madeleine Korbel Albright was one of the great U.S. secretaries of state, a profound thinker, terrific colleague, and very good friend.... She was a highly principled person and a firm defender of democracy in a world of rising autocratic tendencies.”

— Read a remembrance from SIPA’s Jan Svejnar.

In the News

“Madeleine Albright, First Woman to Serve as Secretary of State, Dies at 84”

New York Times (obituary), March 23, 2022

“Madeleine Albright Remembers Vaclav Havel”

SIPA News, October 4, 2018

The Secretary on the State: Madeleine Albright shares her thoughts on the Iraq War and reflects on her time at Columbia

Columbia magazine, December 15, 2004

Alumni remember Madeleine Albright — Selections from social media

“Secretary Albright was a huge source of personal inspiration for me.... Going to live in Czechoslovakia, choosing to study foreign policy and international relations, applying to Columbia SIPA, even my love of brooches (she wrote a book about hers called Little Pins) all owe something to her.”

Tina Fordham MIA ’99 (via LinkedIn; view full post)

“My meeting and the wonderful exchange I had with her while studying at Columbia SIPA explains many of my career choices, with a focus on private sector development for impact in emerging markets. Thank you for having been such an inspiration.”

Aurélien Boyer MIA ’06 (via LinkedIn; view full post)

“When I was 24 years old, Madeleine Albright changed my life.... She helped me immeasurably and I, in turn, try to do the same for other women. May your memory be a blessing, Madame Secretary.”

Beth Michelson MIA ’97 (via LinkedIn; view full post)

“She remains one of the greatest female leaders of our time.... May she Rest In Peace and may her memory remain a source of inspiration to all those who want to crush the glass ceiling.”

Karma Ekmekji MPA ’06 (via Instagram; view full post)