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Guests gather for 2022 Korbel Honors Ceremony

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Korbel Communications

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Before gentle reminders came from the staff at the event, over 200 of the Korbel School’s faculty, students, alumni, friends and community members mingled amongst drinks and hors d’oeuvres on the second-floor walkway of the Cable Center. All had gathered for the Korbel Honors, an event honoring distinguished faculty, alumni, and leaders in the international affairs arena. Attendants mingled amongst each other for the first hour, as the murmur of small talk filled the cavernous Cable Center’s atrium. The event, postponed last year due to the pandemic, marked a return to normalcy and offered the opportunity for students to network, alums to reconnect, and faculty to relax. The night witnessed three awards given to worthy recipients: the Korbel Outstanding Teaching Award, the Korbel Distinguished Alumni Award, and the Josef Korbel Award.

After guests slowly converged towards the seating section, Korbel Graduate Student Association president, Wondemneh Pawlose introduced Korbel School’s dean, Fritz Mayer who outlined the event’s proceedings and invited DU’s chancellor Jeremy Haefner to commence the event. In what would be a reoccurring theme, Haefner’s remarks commended the teacher-scholar model at Korbel and commemorated the late Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, noting that her relationship with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice offered hope about crossing political barriers in the current fractured society. Immediately following his remarks, a tribute video for Albright played, focusing on her love for Denver and teaching. Mayer, when introducing the video, remarked, “it is fitting that she is celebrated on the same day in both [Washington, DC] and Denver, her two homes.”

Dean Mayer soon transitioned to presenting two of the awards: the Korbel Outstanding Teaching Award and the inaugural Korbel Distinguished Alumni Award. First came the Teaching Award, with the result a surprise for everyone. Two Korbel students spoke glowingly about the mysterious professor, highlighting her sense of humor, calm demeanor, and curious mind before ultimately revealing the recipient of the award to be associate professor Naazneen Barma. Though only one professor could be honored, Korbel students nominated 27 different faculty for the award, a testament to the strength of the School’s faculty.

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Korbel School Dean Fritz Mayer with Teaching Award Recipient Associate Professor Naazneen Barma

The ceremony then transitioned to a more somber and poignant affair as Mayer introduced the winner of the Distinguished Alumni Award. Anil Raj, the recipient, tragically passed away while working for the United Nation Development Programme in Afghanistan in 2019. After a video played highlighting his relentlessly positive attitude and dedication to humanitarianism, two friends reflected on his impact on their lives, noting the numerous friends and family in attendance. The friends reminisced on his celebratory approach to life, always willing to toast the accomplishments of his friends, big or small. For them, Raj embodied the lesson that leading with kindness goes a long way.

The ceremony concluded with Senator Timothy Wirth receiving the Josef Korbel Award. The Award recognized Wirth’s remarkable career in public service and advancing the issue of climate change. After receiving the award, Mayer facilitated a conversation with him on democracy and climate change. The conversation touched upon several different topics, including former President Trump’s claims of election fraud, an anecdote about then Senator Joseph Biden speaking for an hour after being asked to say a few words, the negative influence of money on politics, and Newt Gingrich’s destruction of the House of Representatives. Senator Wirth ended the conversation with a note of optimism, remarking about the quality of Americans running for public office.

The Korbel Honors successfully celebrated the Korbel School’s work, its impact on Denver’s community, and the larger international sector through its education of future leaders and production of research engaging with the great issues of our time. 


More photos from the 2022 Korbel Honors Ceremony can be found on Korbel's Flickr channel.

This article was written by Korbel School MA student Colin Babikian.