“He gave a lecture on Josef Stalin and the politics was so Byzantine, there was so much intrigue,” Rice says. “I decided I wanted to study the Soviet Union.”
Career Marked by Achievement
Rice went on to pursue her doctorate after graduating with honors from the University of Denver at only 19. She began teaching at Stanford in 1981. Five years later, a Council on Foreign Relations fellowship brought her to Washington to work on nuclear strategic planning under Adm. William Crowe at the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
It was an experience she remembers fondly.
“There were four of us in one little office and it was great,” Rice says. “I gained so much respect for military officers and what they do, and I think I really got an experience that few civilians have.”
In 1989, President Bush’s national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft, helped convince her to leave Stanford again and work for him in Washington. She quickly became one of Bush’s most trusted advisers, helping craft policy in the region she had studied for so many years.
The Next NSC Adviser?
Many prominent Republicans have hoped Rice enjoys many more such remarkable moments in the foreign policy arena — in another Bush White House.
“The people who have done the best in some of these appointed positions have been once around the track,” says Carla Hills, who served with Rice during the Bush administration as U.S. trade representative. “I would think she should be on his list for several positions, certainly national security adviser.”
Hills serves on several boards with Rice, including Chevron (both women have tankers named after them), and says she thinks Rice’s recent run at the Stanford helm will serve her well should she return to Washington.
“I think her experience as provost in Stanford has given her an interesting window on budgeting and management that is really quite extensive,” Hills says. Regarding Rice’s management style, Hills says, “I would say she is firm, which is maybe a nicer word for tough, and that is because she does her homework and knows her position.”
Her tenure at Stanford, however, has not been without controversy. What Hills regards as firm, others call autocratic.
“I don’t think Condoleezza Rice believes in strong faculty governance at a university,” says Stanford Professor Emeritus Ronald Rebholz. While Rebholz praises Rice for balancing the university’s budget during tough fiscal times, he says she and Stanford President Gerhard Casper do not always listen as well as they lead.
“I think that they believe in the downward flow of power,” says Rebholz. “They want power centralized at the top and flowing down from their decisions to the rest of the university.”
Sports Fan, Star Student
Rice met the younger Bush a couple of times while working for his father, but the two did not speak at length until she and the former president joined the Texas governor for lunch during his first legislative session.
“We are both sports fans,” says Rice, whose father served as a local football coach. “We got along well right away.”
In the summer of 1998 the two discussed foreign policy at length when they met at the Bush family’s home in Kennebunkport, Maine.
“I am immensely fond of him,” says Rice. “I think he would be a terrific president.”
And she praises Bush’s ability to tackle the sometimes arduous foreign policy terrain.
“He is quick in a good way, he has got a very sharp intellect that goes right to the core of something,” says Rice. “Particularly when you are dealing with areas you may not know very well, the ability to get to the essence of the problem is critical.”
ABCNEWS’ Gayle Tzemach contributed to this report.