Campus & Community

DU names international studies school for founder Josef Korbel

The University of Denver is looking to its past to inspire leaders of the future, renaming the Graduate School of International Studies in honor of the late Josef Korbel, an internationally recognized diplomat, scholar and professor.

Korbel’s family — including his daughter, former sec. of state and United Nations representative Madeleine Albright — joined DU Chancellor Robert Coombe and Dean Tom Farer to announce the naming of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies before scores of students, faculty, staff and reporters.

Watch the video.

“To our very great fortune, this brilliant intellectual agreed to a professorship here at the University of Denver in 1949 and began an extraordinary 27-year tenure,” Farer said. “Dr. Korbel envisioned establishing a professional school to prepare talented and idealistic students for international careers in government, in non-governmental agencies and in the private sector. His dream came true in 1964 with the establishment of what was then the Graduate School of International Studies.

“We believe that Dr. Korbel would be pleased with the evolution of the institution that he established and that he inspired and continues to inspire.”

Coombe recognized Korbel’s vision and drive and vowed the school would retain his name, and further his vision, forever. Renaming the school after Korbel, Coombe said, is only the start of a push to develop the University of Denver into an international university.

“He believed that we could build a graduate school of international studies that could change the world,” Coombe said.

Albright, joined by her brother, John Korbel, and sister, Katherine Korbel Silva, fondly remembered growing up on the DU campus and said their father would be honored to have the school bear his name.

“I continue to be overwhelmed, and I know this is a very special day, and it is my personal belief that my parents are up there watching,” Albright said, before reflecting on the school’s mission. “I do think the world needs more and more graduates of the Josef Korbel School because the world is a mess.”

Albright said her father’s teaching was balanced between idealism and realism and stressed the ability individuals have to change the world.

“This certainly is a magnificent tribute to someone who dedicated his life to studying critical world issues and understanding them,” Silva added.

And John Korbel, reflecting on his parents’ life at DU, said, “My parents really loved Colorado, they loved Denver, and they loved the University … My mother used to say there are two great cities in the world, Prague and Denver.”

Josef Korbel was born in Czechoslovakia in 1909 but was forced to flee after the Nazi invasion of 1939. He returned to serve as his country’s ambassador to Yugoslavia before he was forced to flee again in 1948 after a Communist coup. In 1949 he accepted a post at DU teaching international relations. In 1964 he founded the Graduate School of International Studies that now bears his name. He died in 1977.

“I think he would be totally surprised by renaming the school after him, but he would be extremely grateful,” John Korbel said of his father. “Not a day will go by in our family that we don’t think about the Korbel School.”

Read about Albright visiting with students.

Comments are closed.