Successes also included a tenuous oil deal between Sudan and South Sudan, persuading China and others to implement crippling oil sanctions against Iran and elevating gay rights — much like she did with women's rights in the 1990s — to a new level of global credibility.
Yet Clinton leaves with many international crises unresolved, such as Syria's civil war and Egypt's democratic future. The U.S.-Israel alliance is on shaky ground, terrorism is on the rise in North Africa, there's an unclear endgame to the Afghanistan war and Israelis and Palestinians are no closer to a two-state peace solution than they were four years ago. And, despite endless warnings, Iran's nuclear program has moved closer to weapons capacity.
In all, Clinton spent 401 days on overseas travel and almost three months in the air.
Oftentimes she made a splash in the world without even trying.
In Italy, an impromptu 2011 shopping expedition to the Salvatore Ferragamo store with her aide de camp, Huma Abedin, caused a major traffic tie up in central Rome. A visit to ancient ruins at Cambodia's famed Angkor Wat temple complex turned the heads of hundreds of other tourists.
Photos of her drinking a beer at a bar in Colombia made newspaper front pages. A video of her dancing at a dinner in South Africa became a hit online as did the "Texts from Hillary" meme, featuring a photo of a stern-looking Clinton peering through sunglasses at her Blackberry while aboard a military plane en route to Libya.
A village in India is named for her. In 2010 in Kosovo, Clinton's motorcade made an impromptu stop at a store called "Hillary" just a stone's throw from a statue of her husband on the main road from the airport to the capital of Pristina. She happily posed for pictures there with her entourage.
She dealt confidently with the first major hiccup of her watch, the release of hundreds of thousands of classified State Department cables by WikiLeaks, which caused deep embarrassment as it laid bare confidential and often harsh assessments of foreign leaders by U.S. diplomats around the world and put at least several informants at risk.
Aside from her recent health scare, Clinton has not been immune from personal tragedy while serving as top diplomat.
One of her foreign policy mentors, the diplomat Richard Holbrooke, whom Clinton tapped to run Afghanistan and Pakistan policy, died in December 2010 after suffering a ruptured aorta during a meeting in her office. Less than a year later, Clinton's mother, Dorothy Rodham, died at the age of 92.
And, Clinton's own painful memories of marital discord were rekindled in the summer of 2011 when Abedin's husband, former Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., was forced to resign from Congress after a sexting scandal.
Yet, her four years as secretary of state also yielded personal triumphs. From her daughter's wedding in July 2010 to her emotional get-together with Suu Kyi in Yangon and separate meetings with ailing South African icon Nelson Mandela, a personal idol, Clinton rode the crest of a wave of popularity she had not seen in her public career before.
"Get into the arena, stand up for what you believe and put together the arguments that can win the day," she told the AP as she prepared to leave office, imparting advice to anyone who might be considering a career in politics.
"I am making no decisions, but I would never give that advice to someone that I wouldn't take myself, she said. "If you believe you can make a difference, not just in politics, in public service, in advocacy around all these important issues, then you have to be prepared to accept that you are not going to get 100 percent approval."
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.