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International studies school renamed for founder

The Graduate School of International Studies was renamed the Josef Korbel School of International Studies in a ceremony on May 28, 2008. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

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 Secretary of State Madeleine Albright — joined DU Chancellor Robert Coombe and Dean Tom Farer May 28 to announce the naming of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies before scores of students, faculty, staff and reporters.

“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.”

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 met with nearly 250 of those future graduates at an event, “Madeleine Albright Meets the Next Generation of Foreign Policy Leaders.” She discussed her recent book, Memo to the President Elect: How We Can Restore America’s Reputation and Leadership (Harper, 2008), taking questions from a panel made up of international studies graduate students.

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 fleeing a Communist coup in 1948. 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.

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

“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.”

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