Geoffrey Cowan, University Professor and holder of the Annenberg Family Chair in Communication Leadership at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California, has been an influential figure in the communication world as an academic leader, government official, author, television producer, and playwright. Between 1996 and 2007, Cowan was dean of USC’s Annenberg School, and currently directs the Center for Communication Leadership with a joint appointment in the Gould School of Law. He is involved in the work of the USC Center on Public Diplomacy, which he founded, the Norman Lear Center, the Center on Communication Law and Policy, the Charles Annenberg Weingarten Program on Online Communities and the Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future. At UCLA, he taught communication law and policy, and served as the founding director of the Center for Communication Policy.
Before coming to USC, Dr. Cowan served under President Bill Clinton as director of Voice of America (VOA), the international broadcasting service of the U.S. Information Agency. He was also director of USIA’s International Broadcasting Bureau. Cowan served on the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), playing a key role in the development of National Public Radio. He also chaired the Los Angeles commission that drafted the city’s ethics and campaign finance law.
Cowan is the author of the new book Let the People Rule: Theodore Roosevelt and the Birth of the Presidential Primary (W.W. Norton & Company) as well as See No Evil: The Backstage Battle over Sex and Violence on Television (1980) and The People v. Clarence Darrow: The Bribery Trial of America’s Greatest Lawyer (1993). With LeRoy Aarons, in 1991 he co-wrote Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers, a play about the tension between a free press and government secrecy that was featured in a 22-city national tour during the 2007-2008 season. He received a primetime Emmy in 1992 for his role as executive producer of the television movie, “Mark Twain and Me” which was voted the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Outstanding Prime Time Program for Children. He is a graduate of Harvard College and Yale Law School, and served as chairman of the Los Angeles commission that wrote the city’s ethics code. For his work, he was named “Man of the Year” by the Council of Government Ethics Leaders. In 2009, he was elected as a fellow in the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. In 2010, the trustees of The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands appointed Cowan as the first president of the Trust, where he served until 2016. He carried on the Annenberg legacy by developing Sunnylands into a world-class venue for important retreats for top government officials and leaders in the fields of law, education, philanthropy, the arts, culture, science and medicine.
Cowan serves on the board of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy, the Berggruen Institute, Common Sense Media, Democracy 21, and the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Pacific Council on International Policy, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
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