Condoleezza Rice (1954-)
Condoleezza Rice was born on November 14, 1954, in Birmingham, Alabama; she was named after the Italian musical expression “Con Dolcezza” meaning “with sweetness.” Her parents, John and Angelena Rice, made sure that Condoleezza was exposed to music, ballet, languages, sports, and books. She grew up with a schedule of private lessons in various disciplines even before she began attending school. As a child, she was very involved with her church youth groups and music lessons. She learned to read books and music at a very early age, exhibiting a strong sense of discipline that resulted in her skipping the first and seventh grades.
Having had piano lessons since the age of three, she entered the Birmingham Southern Conservatory of Music, a newly integrated school, where she honed her musical talent and became competitive. After her father received an appointment at the University of Denver, she began attending St. Mary’s Academy, a private Catholic school for girls where she experienced school integration for the first time. At the age of fifteen, she earned the privilege of performing with the Denver Symphony Orchestra and by sixteen, began her studies as a piano performance major at the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music.
After attending Colorado’s internationally known Aspen Music Festival, however, she felt that she could not achieve the level of musical talent that many others had and began redirecting her attention on other interests. In 1974, Rice earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Denver. She earned her master’s degree in political science at Indiana’s University of Notre Dame in 1975.
Two years later, she interned at the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs during the presidency of Democrat Jimmy Carter. She returned to Colorado for her doctorate in political science, which she earned in 1981 at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies. Her dissertation, entitled The Politics of Client Command: Party-Military Relations in Czechoslovakia: 1948-1975, focused on relations between the USSR and Czechoslovakia.
Beginning in 1981, Rice taught political science at California’s Stanford University. She became known as a specialist on the Soviet Union, and in 1989, when Republican George H.W. Bush became president, she began serving in federal government, where her knowledge of Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin became especially helpful. She returned to Stanford in 1991, but was mentored by George P. Schultz, Secretary of State during the Reagan administration. He helped her obtain board memberships with Chevron, Transamerica Corporation, and Hewlett-Packard. In 1992, she founded the Center for New Generation, an after-school program that helps increase the graduation rate of teens in Palo Alto, California and eastern Menlo Park, California. Rice rose to become provost at Stanford in 1993, in charge of the budget and academic affairs of the university. She was the university’s first African American and first woman to hold this position.
She resigned her Stanford position in 2000 to serve as National Security Advisor to President George W. Bush. He appointed her Secretary of State in 2004, making her the first African American woman in this high-ranking Cabinet position. Her extensive travels especially impressed people aboard, given how rare it is for a black woman to hold such a powerful office.
In March of 2009, after the inauguration of Democrat Barack Obama, Rice returned to Stanford as a professor of political science and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institute, a conservative think tank. Although still very active in politics, she has appeared as a guest pianist with acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma and has performed for Queen Elizabeth II. She serves on the Board of Directors at the Charles Schwab Corporation, the Carnegie Corporation, the Chevron Corporation, Rand Corporation, Hewlett-Packard Corporation, and Transamerica Corporation. Rice has appeared in Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People,” and in 2004 and 2005, was named by Forbes as “Most Powerful Woman in the World.”