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Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga: President, Latvia, 1999-2007

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Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga: President, Latvia, 1999-2007

Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga was born on Dec. 1, 1937 in Riga, the capital. She fled with her family to Germany and then French Morocco near the end of World War II after Soviet forces took over Latvia. In 1954 she moved to Canada, where she attended the University of Toronto and then McGill University, Montreal, earning a Ph.D. in experimental psychology in 1965. She worked (1965–98) as a psychology professor at the University of Montreal. In the meantime, she served on many councils and organizations in high positions, such as President (1980-81) of the Social Science Federation of Canada, President (1984-86) of the Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies, and Vice President (1984-89) of the Science Council of Canada. In 1994, she was appointed a Member of Council and later president of the Academy of the Royal Society of Canada. She was also a Member of the Killam Research Fellowships and Prizes Selection Committee from 1995-1998. In 1998, upon her retirement from the University of Montreal, she moved back to Latvia, where she headed the nonprofit Latvian Institute, which promoted Latvian culture. In 1999, Vike-Freiberga was selected as President of Latvia, becoming the first female president of this country. She was succeeded by Valdis Zatlers in 2007. In 2008, Vike-Freiberga became a member of The European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation. In December 2013, Vike-Freiberga was elected President of the Club of Madrid, an independent organization of former statesmen and women to promote democratic leadership.