NEW YORK — General Colin Powell journeyed back to his alma mater, City College of New York, last Thursday to commemorate the school’s decision to rename its division of social sciences after him.
The Colin L. Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership will contain five departments of the social sciences: Anthropology, Economics, Political Science, Psychology and Sociology. Popular programs like Black Studies, International Studies, International Relations, Latin American and Latino Studies, Pre-Law, Public Service Management and Women’s Studies will also be housed in the school.
Born in the South Bronx to Jamaican immigrants, the nation’s first Black Secretary of State who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1989 to 1993, graduated from City College in 1958.
“People came to this country for an opportunity like no other place in the world,” Powell told the several hundred guests who attended the morning ceremony where CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein presented the decorated war hero with the Chancellor’s Medal in honor of his contributions to the 160-year-old college. “My parents gave me a sense of purpose and expectation and told me, ‘Don’t Fail Us.”
The decision to rename one of the largest divisions at the college after Powell came after the CUNY Board of Trustees, which oversees City College and 22 other colleges across New York City, unanimously voted in favor of the measure.
“We believe the naming of the illustrious City College Division of Social Science under the name of Colin Powell highlights the interdisciplinary nature of the program and our desire to expand the benefits of this curriculum throughout campus,” said Benno C. Schmidt, the chairman of CUNY’s Board of Trustees.
Powell is perhaps the most recognized alumnus of City College and has lent his name and his time to the institution over the past two decades.
In 1997, he helped to establish the Colin L. Powell Center for Leadership and Training, a non-partisan center that readies students for a career in public service. He continues to serve as chairman of the Center’s board of directors. Over the course of its existence, the Center has offered scholarships to students, grants to faculty, and has spearheaded the college’s service learning and civic engagement activities.
Syad Haider, 20, a junior who is majoring in biology at City College, is currently a Powell Fellow. A native of Pakistan, Haider arrived in the U.S. five years ago barely able to speak English.
“The program has really given me the confidence to be a leader,” says Haider, who has plans of going on to medical school. “Even as a student, I’m learning that I can be an advocate for others and help to make our world a better place to live in.”
School officials say that they have already raised $44 million for the new school to support existing programs and to establish new ones. Funds will be used to support faculty research, support internship programs and push civic engagement throughout the entire campus.
“The decision to establish the Colin L. Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership was inspired by our realization that the institution that helped shape the young Colin Powell is today more relevant, more essential, than ever before,” says Lisa S. Coico, the president of City College. “City College has no sons more sturdy than Colin Powell, who has given back to his alma mater in a most extraordinary way through his generosity and ongoing engagement with the Center and, now, the School that bears his name.”