NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — As secretary of state, the world was Colin Powell‘s stage.

But it all started here in New York, and he credited one of the city’s great institutions for shaping his life and distinguished career, CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported Monday.

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Powell, who died Monday at age 84 due to complications from COVID-19, was all about service and leadership. So it’s fitting City College of New York, a school focused on both is his legacy, has the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership.

On Monday, the dean called Powell a man of extraordinary accomplishment, a proud son of City College.

(Photo: CBS2)

The institution shaped the life of a man who helped shape the post-Cold War world.

“It was probably the only place I could have gone because my parents were of limited means and it was free, and it was perhaps the turning point in my whole life,” Powell once said.

“He found ROTC while he was at City College and that kind of, for him, helped to define his purpose, his direction, and all that came after,” said Andy Rich, the dean of the CCNY school that is named in honor of Powell.

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“I think about his optimism and I think about his attention to everyone in the room, to faculty and staff and members of his board and people serving him coffee and the security guard standing outside,” CCNY President Vince Boudreau told CBS2’s Jessica Layton.

Boudreau recalled the time Powell visited the inaugural class of the fellowship program that bears his name in 2005.

“And he went around the room and had every one of them tell them their story, their ambitions” Boudreau said. “I really got choked up about it because he said, ‘I looked at them and they were me,'” Boudreau said.

“Would City College be the place it is today without Colin Powell?” Layton asked.

“I’ve said this to him. He profoundly changed what it means to go to City College,” Boudreau said.

Powell was raised in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx in a building on Kelly Street that is now a parking lot.

Olivier Dubois lit a candle there on Monday morning.

“This for my brother, Colin Powell. He’s a great man, and when great people leave we give our blessings,” Dubois said.

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Powell wrote in his biography that the neighborhood was a melting pot, made up of Caribbeans, Jews, Italians and Asians. He joked he didn’t meet a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant until he joined the Army.

He was proud of his snazzy bicycle, which he liked to ride to Orchard Beach.

Powell attended the former Public School 39 and probably never imagining one day an elementary school in Union City, New Jersey would bear his name. It’s also a school community which is now mourning his loss. Powell last visited in 2013.

“We’re very proud of who he was, and he will still live with us here at Colin Powell School, and our Shining Star Generals will always remember him,” principal Teresita Diaz said.

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Powell is also honored in the Bronx with a sign on the borough’s Walk of Fame, a mural on the side of a deli, owned by Yemeni immigrants who admired Powell, and his name is on an affordable housing complex just blocks from where Powell was raised.

“Mr. Powell was an outstanding citizen, a good man, served his country for years as a general. I pray for him and his family,” Hunts Point resident Kenneth Matthews said.

“Gen. Powell served this nation with just tremendous distinction. What we all feel as New Yorkers is he was ours. He was an example of the greatness of New York City,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

CBS2’s Jessica Layton contributed to this report.

Tony Aiello