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The current Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and former president of Discovery Communications will deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary degree at Colby’s 189th Commencement ceremonies on Sunday, May 23.
Judith A. McHale was appointed by President Obama to help lead America’s engagement with the people of the world. Her career has been devoted to building companies and nonprofit organizations that reach out to and connect people globally. McHale’s background is particularly relevant to the student experience at Colby, which has a strong college-wide commitment to internationalism and has 29 countries represented in the graduating class.
“As CEO of Discovery, Judith McHale redefined international broadcast communications in this rapidly changing media landscape,” said former U.S. ambassador Robert Gelbard ’64, chair of the Board of Trustees’ honorary degree committee. “Recognizing her ability to understand and work with people of disparate cultures, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton asked her to lead our foreign policy communications efforts at a time when America’s reputation abroad called for a leader with a proven track record.”
The daughter of a U.S. Foreign Service officer, McHale grew up in Britain and apartheid-era South Africa. Her upbringing inspired a lifelong commitment to social justice and engagement with development issues, especially in Africa. During these formative years, McHale’s family home was constantly under police surveillance and was wire-tapped, family friends were detained and mistreated, and she became close with key anti-apartheid activists.
As the former president and chief executive officer of Discovery Communications, from 1987 to 2006, McHale helped build the Discovery Channel’s parent company into one of the world’s most extensive media enterprises, with more than 100 channels broadcast in more than 170 countries and 35 languages to more than one billion subscribers. Discovery put respect for cultural context and local voices at the heart of its business and creative strategies.
In the 1990s McHale launched the nonprofit Discovery Channel Global Education Partnership, which supplies free educational video programming to more than half a million students across Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe.
With the Global Environment Fund, a private equity firm, McHale worked to launch the GEF/Africa Growth Fund, an investment vehicle for supplying expansion capital to small and medium-sized businesses in emerging African markets. Before joining Discovery, McHale served as general counsel for MTV Networks and helped guide the company’s international expansion.
Commencement exercises will be held on the Miller Library lawn (weather permitting) at 10 a.m. The public is invited. For up-to-date information please visit www.colby.edu/commencement.