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Madeleine Albright, first female secretary of state, grew up in Denver before political career

Madeleine Albright, the 64th U.S. secretary of state and first woman in the role, died Wednesday.

DENVER — Madeleine Albright spent her teenage years in Colorado before going on to become the first female U.S. secretary of state, United Nations ambassador and professor at Georgetown University.

Albright, who on Wednesday died from cancer at 84, came to Denver after her family fled Czechoslovakia not long after World War II. She was 12.

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The family lived all over town, as Albright told Denverite in 2016. She recalled in that interview living at 995 South Williams, 1045 Gaylord, 13th and Bannock, 2050 South Race and 2314 South Madison. She said she spent her time studying at Denver Public Library.

In the 1950s she attended Kent Denver School, where she founded the international relations club. In a Facebook post Wednesday, the school called her a champion for democracy and a beloved member of their community. 

"When interviewed by Kent Denver students in 1997, she recalled, 'I loved Kent, but I never dreamed that I could be Secretary of State. Kent was a girls’ school. We never thought that we could be in a position to make decisions for our country. My dream was to do well, speak English well, get good grades and start more international relations clubs,'" said the post. 

Later, during a summer break from her studies at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, she returned to intern at the Denver Post.

“I worked in the morgue — which probably isn’t a thing now — a place where they stored the clippings. And if a reporter needed to know something, I’d run down and find the clipping on it," she told the paper in an interview in 2016.

She met Joseph Medill Patterson Albright, grandson of the Daily News of New York founder Joseph Medill Patterson, during that internship. They eventually married and had three daughters. They divorced in 1982.

Albright's diplomat father, Josef Korbel, took a job teaching international studies at the University of Denver (DU) when the family first moved here. He eventually founded the university's graduate school of international studies in 1964. In 2008, DU changed the program's name in his honor, calling it the Josef Korbel School of International Studies.

"[Albright] grew up here on the campus really and was here so often over the years," Fritz Mayer, the dean of the Josef Korbel of International Studies, said. "It was really one of the honors of my life to get to know Madeleine."

She delivered DU's commencement address in 2016, and more recently, she came to speak on campus with another former secretary of state, alumna Condoleezza Rice. 

"Rice was Josef Korbel's last Ph.D. student, so they had this amazing bond," Mayer said. "She was a fierce advocate and defender of democracy and she worried enormously about what was happening in the world."

While Albright's career took her all over the globe, she became an American citizen in Denver. She still considered the city her home.

“My mother used to say on a regular basis there are two great cities in the world, Prague and Denver, and I agree with her,” Albright said in a virtual fundraiser in 2020, as reported by Colorado Politics.

Albright was inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame in 2010.

In a statement about her death, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) said people in this state and across the country are indebted to Albright for her lifetime of service:

“Today, we mourn the loss of a true pioneer and history-maker with proud, deep roots in Colorado where her family moved when she was a young girl. Coloradans, Americans, and people around the world will be indebted to her service. Secretary Albright went on to serve as the first female U.S. Secretary of State, carrying with her a legacy of firsts. My heart goes out to former Secretary Albright’s loved ones and the international community, where her life continues to teach our nation and the world lessons of determination, wisdom, and grace in times of peace or unrest.” 

>The video below is from 2016: Madeleine Albright one-on-one 9NEWS interview

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