October 18, 2021
General Colin Powell—who came from humble beginnings in Harlem and the South Bronx, to become the first Black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and later U.S. Secretary of State—died on Monday from complications related to COVID-19. He also suffered from multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. He was 84.
A fierce advocate for public higher education, Powell often talked about his love for City College of New York, where he earned his undergraduate degree, participated in ROTC and received a commission as an Army second lieutenant upon graduation in June 1958.
The son of Jamaican immigrants, Powell would go on to serve in the Army, eventually rising through the ranks to become a four-star general and Commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command.
“No words seem adequate at this moment. This school is his,” said Dr. Andrew Rich, the Richard J. Henley and Susan L. Davis Dean of the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership at City College of New York. “He was our leader and our friend. His pride in this place gave all of us strength, and we are heartbroken.”
Rich said that the Colin Powell School reflects Powell’s vision and his passion for education.
“General Powell committed himself to every student who walked through our doors. He loved this place, and loved meeting every one of them,” he said, adding that Powell would often show up early to meetings on campus so that he could stand in front of Shepard Hall and meet students as they walked by. “He’d hear their stories and tell them his own. He would encourage them to work hard and pursue their dreams. He always reminded them—and all of us—that ‘they’re just like I was’ some 65 years ago now.: