Fellow Alumni,

The Alumni Association of City College of New York, CCNY, mourns the death of General Colin Powell, class of 1958, a loyal son and distinguished graduate. A loving husband and devoted father. We convey condolences to his wife, Alma, and their three adult children.

Son of Jamaican immigrants. Raised in the Bronx in a working class community. Attended and graduated from public schools including Morris High School and CCNY. At CCNY, he initially majored in geology and subsequently joined the Reserve Officer Training Corp, ROTC, and graduated as a commissioned officer in the Army. When asked what caused him to change from a future career in geology to military service, he responded, he wanted a career of public service.

His distinguished public service career is filled with a life of notable contributions including: as a White House Fellow, Four Star Army General, served in 4 presidential administrations and as the first Black: Chairman, Joint Chief of Staff, Deputy and later National Security Adviser to President Regan and Secretary of State in the George Bush Administration. He was twice the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

He helped rebuild the Army after the Vietnam war. He was known for his integrity; speaking truth to power; being practical and humble; reluctant to use military force; author of "Pottery Barn Rule: If you break, you own it;" the doctrine of overwhelming force for military intervention and advocate for developing the "exit strategy," before initiating military intervention. 

He believed and advocated the coordinated use of diplomacy with military force. He modernized the State Department by placing a computer on each desk and securing Congressional funding to improve performance of State Department staff.

General Powell had a longstanding relationship with the Alumni Association as a Lifetime Member. And in 1987, he was awarded the Townsend Harris medal in recognition of his distinguished career and numerous accomplishments.

His commitment to "country over party" led to his endorsement of candidates in different parties that he believed were the best for the future of the U.S. irrespective to their political party affiliation.

He served as a mentor to many including those in senior military and civilian positions. His focus on future leaders lead to his return and collaboration at CCNY in creating a new school.

His major and enduring legacy is the creation of the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership at the City College of New York to produce future leaders in public service.


Gary Calnek
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