» Colin Powell Bust

“A dream doesn't become a reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”

- Colin Powell

Critical Essay by
Dr. Norma Bouchard
Executive Vice President, Provost and Chief Academic Officer
Chapman University
View Bio

Colin Luther Powell was an American military general and statesman. He was born on April 5, 1937, in New York City. He passed away on October 18, 2021.

Powell was raised in the South Bronx to Jamaican immigrants. His father was a shipping clerk and his mother a seamstress.  Powell graduated in 1954 from Morris High School and attended the City College of New York, earning a B.S. in geology in 1958. 

While at City College, he joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) and was appointed as second lieutenant in an Army that had been recently desegregated. Powell was then deployed as a platoon leader to the 48th Infantry, in West Germany. Between 1960 and 1962, he held various roles as company executive officer and commander at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. Powell served two tours in Vietnam, first as a South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) advisor from 1962 to 1963 and then as a major in 1968, when he received the Soldier's Medal for bravery after surviving a helicopter crash and rescuing three others.

When he returned to the U.S. from Vietnam, he pursued an MBA from George Washington University, and became a White House Fellow under President Richard Nixon (1972 to 1973).  He attended the National War College and in 1976 assumed the command of the 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division. He was promoted to Brigadier General on June 1, 1979, after serving under deputy secretaries of defense Charles Duncan and Graham Claytor. Powell became senior military assistant during the presidency of Ronald Reagan and was appointed to the role of assistant division commander for operations and training of the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colorado.

In the 1980ies, Powell was involved with the 1983 invasion of Grenada and the 1986 airstrike on Libya. He served under Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger who was indicted on five felony charges by the Independent Counsel in connection with the Iran-Contra affair.

After a short time spent as United States Deputy National Security Advisor, Powell became Ronald Reagan's National Security Advisor. In 1989, he was promoted to four-star general under President George H. W. Bush and briefly served as the Commander in Chief, overseeing all active U.S. Army regulars, U.S. Army Reserve, and National Guard units in the Continental U.S., Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. Later in 1989, President George H. W. Bush selected him as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Between 1989 and 1993, Powell faced a number of challenges, including the invasion of Panama in 1989 to remove Manuel Noriega and Operation Desert Storm in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, where he planned and executed the military operation to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi forces. Powell's last military assignment was as the 12th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest military position in the Department of Defense. At age 52, he was the youngest officer and the first African American to serve in the highest military position in the United States.

Following his military career, Powell transitioned to politics and began to campaign for Republican candidates in 1995. When Texas Governor George W. Bush secured the Republican nomination, Powell endorsed him for president.  Following the general election, Bush appointed Powell as secretary of state in 2001, becoming the first African American to hold that position until 2005. This was a difficult period that included the aftermath of the September 11 attacks and the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Powell played a pivotal role in managing the United States’ relationships with foreign countries and securing a coalition in the War on Terrorism. However, he was criticized for having built a case for the 2003 invasion of Iraq on the basis of faulty intelligence over the presence of weapons of mass destruction. On September 13, 2004, Powell was called to testify before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.  In November of that same year, Powell resigned as Secretary of State and Condoleezza Rice was nominated as Powell's successor.

While Powell’s endorsement of the Bush administration's claims regarding Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction has been seen as a blemish on his legacy, Powell’s influence on American politics and society is beyond question.  He was a role model for aspiring leaders from diverse backgrounds and a vocal advocate for education, especially for underprivileged youth. He established the America's Promise Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of young people. He was a pragmatic leader who sought realistic solutions to complex problems and was respected for his integrity and commitment to public service. His death in 2021 marked the end of a major chapter in American military and political history.

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View the map locations of the Collection of Historical Figures statues located throughout the Chapman campuses.

Colin Powell bust


Gift of
The Chapman University Board of Trustees

In recognition of The leadership provided to Chapman University by board members Phil Case, Jerry Cwiertnia and Jim Roszak.

Juan Rosillo

Campus Location
Global Citizens Plaza Walkway