“Great leaders never accept the world as it was and always work for the world as it should be.” – Dr. Condoleezza Rice
Dr. Condoleezza Rice is the nation’s first African-American female U.S. Secretary of State, an extraordinary political scientist, diplomat and leader. Despite raising Condoleezza in 1960s Birmingham, Alabama, one of the most racially segregated cities in America at the time, her parents, Angelena and John Wesley Rice III, cultivated an environment where fairness, equality, hard work and scholarship were emphasized. Dr. Rice’s lifelong commitment to athletics, academics and equality was instilled in her from an early age. Her childhood curiosity for learning and her passion for sports were nurtured by her dedicated parents. As the only daughter of a high school football coach, Dr. Rice learned the values of teamwork, dedication and perseverance, all qualities that were deeply rooted in her sports-loving family. Her free time was spent with her father watching their beloved Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturdays and rooting for the Cleveland Browns on Sundays, which then followed with a game of football in their front yard, nicknamed, the “Rice Bowl.” Additionally, Dr. Rice began ice skating in her early teens and soon became a competitive skater. At the age of 18, she began playing tennis, a sport that she still actively pursues.
In 1974, at the young age of 19, Dr. Rice graduated cum laude and with Phi Beta Kappa honors from the University of Denver, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in political science. Shortly thereafter, she pursued a master’s degree in political science from the University of Notre Dame in 1975; and finally, she returned to the Graduate School of International Studies at the University of Denver, earning a doctorate in political science in 1981.
After finishing her final degree, Dr. Rice joined Stanford University as a professor of political science, where, after just three years, she was awarded the prestigious Walter J. Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching. For the majority of the 1990s, Dr. Rice continued to make an impact at Stanford University, becoming the first woman, first African-American and the youngest provost of the institution. From 1989 to 1991, Dr. Rice served in various roles on President George H.W. Bush’s National Security Council staff, including Director, Senior Director of Soviet and East European Affairs, and Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. Additionally, in 1997, Dr. Rice served on the Federal Advisory Committee on Gender, examining the integrated training of men and women in the military. In 2001, Dr. Rice became just the second woman, and first African-American woman, to be named National Security Advisor, working directly under President George W. Bush. In 2005 — after a vote of 85 to 13 in the Senate — Dr. Rice became the first African-American woman to hold the position of the 66th United States Secretary of State, which she held until 2009.
Beyond Washington politics, Dr. Rice found a way to integrate her longstanding passion for sports with her innate ability to lead. During her time as the U.S. Secretary of State, she began playing golf and quickly excelled in the sport. In 2012, she became one of the first two women to be admitted as members of the Augusta National Golf Club. Her leadership in professional sports continued on in 2013 when she was named to the 13-member College Football Playoff Committee. For her three-year term, Dr. Rice was the only woman on the committee; and in 2015, she was awarded the Gold Medal by the National Football Foundation (NFF), making her the first woman to be nationally recognized with the award. In 2016, Dr. Rice’s contributions to collegiate athletics were further acknowledged when she was awarded the NCAA’s Gerald R. Ford Award, which honors an individual who has provided significant leadership as an advocate for college sports.
Currently, Dr. Rice serves as the Denning Professor in Global Business and the Economy at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. She continues to be a professor of political science at Stanford University after over three decades and is the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution. Dr. Rice’s prodigious leadership in the varied fields of academia, politics, social sciences, economics and sports demonstrates her profound influence on shaping policy that has fostered meaningful opportunities for tomorrow’s leaders, especially women and girls. Indeed, we all continue to benefit from the trailblazing efforts of Dr. Rice’s leadership; from her early days in school and throughout her professional life, she continually inspires young women and men to strive for excellence in school, at work and in their personal lives. By demonstrating a steadfast and lifelong commitment to fairness and equality in education, public policy and sports, Dr. Rice has personified the finest attributes of leadership so that women in positions of authority are now more commonplace. The Women’s Sports Foundation is honored to present the 2017 Billie Jean King Leadership Award to Dr. Condoleezza Rice.
The Billie Jean King Leadership Award is presented to an individual or group who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and made significant contributions to the advancement of women through achievements in sports and the workplace. Through their personal and professional example, the recipients have inspired women and girls and demonstrated a lasting commitment to the growth of sports and physical activity for all women and girls.
The award, given since 1980, is presented each year at the Annual Salute to Women in Sports. Originally known as the Billie Jean King Contribution Award, the criteria were expanded in 2017. Learn more here.