Vaira Vike-Freiberga

Born:December 1, 1937 (age 86)
Career:President of Latvia, 1999-2007
Education:B.A. and M.A., University of Toronto
Ph.D., McGill University

Dr. Vaira Vike-Freiberga was president of the Republic of Latvia from July 8, 1999, to July 8, 2007, the first female president of Latvia.

Vike-Freiberga was born December 1, 1937, in Riga, Latvia. To escape the Soviet occupation, her family fled the country in 1945, and became refugees. She began her schooling in refugee camps in Germany and later in French Morocco. Vike-Freiberga arrived in Canada in 1954. She entered the University of Toronto in 1955, obtaining a B.A. (1958) and an M.A. (1960) in psychology. Vike-Freiberga continued her education at McGill University in Montreal where she earned a doctorate in experimental psychology in 1965.

From 1965 to 1998, Vike-Freiberga pursued a professorial career at the University of Montreal. Since 1957, Vike-Freiberga has been actively engaged in community service, focusing on Latvian identity and culture, and the political future of the Baltic States. She has held prominent positions in national and international scientific and scholarly organizations, as well as in a number of Canadian governmental, institutional, academic and interdisciplinary committees, where she acquired extensive administrative experience.

In June 1998, Vike-Freiberga was elected professor emerita at the University of Montreal and returned to her native land, Latvia, where on October 19, the prime minister named her the director of the newly founded Latvian Institute. On June 17, 1999, Vike-Freiberga was elected president of the Republic of Latvia. She played a leading role in achieving Latvia's membership in NATO and the European Union. She was awarded the 2005 Hannah Arendt Prize for political thought.

A member of the Council of Women World Leaders since 1999, Vike-Freiberga is regularly invited to participate in the World Economic Forum and the annual meetings of the American Academy of Achievement. Since 1999, she has received many medals and awards, twenty-seven Orders of Merit and ten honorary doctorates. She was named special envoy on the reform of the United Nations in 2005 and was an official candidate of the Baltic States (Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania) for the position of secretary general in 2006.

Britannica (n.d.). “Vaira Vike-Freiberga” Britannica. Retrieved August 29, 2022.

Council of Women World Leaders. (n.d.) “Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga” Council of Women World Leaders. Retrieved August 29, 2022.

Global Leadership Foundation. (n.d.) “Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga” Global Leadership Foundation. Retrieved August 29, 2022.

World Leaders Forum. (n.d.) “Vaira Vike-Freiberga” Columbia University. Retrieved August 29, 2022.