Former Dean, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California
For the past 30 years, Geoffrey Cowan has been an important force in almost every facet of the communication world – as a public interest lawyer, academic administrator, best-selling author and award-winning teacher, playwright, television producer, and government official.
Since November 1996, he has been dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication which includes a School of Journalism and a School of Communication. The School has a faculty of 39 full-time tenure track members and about 1600 graduate and undergraduate students. He is Professor of Journalism and Law in Annenberg’s School of Journalism, and holds a joint appointment in the USC Law School. He is author of See No Evil: The Backstage Battle Over Sex and Violence on Television (Simon & Schuster, 1980), and The People v. Clarence Darrow: The Bribery Trial of America’s Greatest Lawyer (Random House, 1993).
Prior to becoming dean, Cowan served as Director of the Voice of America. He was appointed to the position by President Clinton in March 1994. In that capacity he served as the 22nd Director of the VOA, the international broadcasting service of the U.S. Information Agency, broadcasting nearly 900 hours of programming in 52 languages, to a weekly audience of about 100 million. He also served as Associate Director of the USIA and as Director of the International Broadcasting Bureau, with responsibility for WORLDNET TV and Radio & TV Marti as well as VOA.
For the previous 20 years, Cowan taught communication law and policy at UCLA and was founding director of the university’s Center for Communication Policy. Concurrently with his teaching at UCLA, Cowan worked as a television producer, receiving an Emmy Award as Executive Producer of the movie ‘Mark Twain And Me,’ which was voted the Outstanding Prime Time Program for Children by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. From 1979-84, he was a member of the Board of Directors of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, playing a key role in the development of National Public Radio. His radio play on the Pentagon Papers battle, starring Ed Asner and Marsha Mason, won CPB’s Gold Medal for Excellence in Best Live Entertainment. Cowan served as chairman of the Los Angeles commission that wrote the city’s ethics code, cited as a model for the nation, for which he was awarded ‘Man of the Year’ by the Council of Government Ethics Leaders. Current civic activities include chairing the California Government’s Bipartisan Commission on Internet Political Practices; membership on the boards of Children Now, Common Sense Media, and the Police Action Resource Center; and active membership on the Council on Foreign Relations and the Pacific Council.
On a personal note, Cowan spent four years as principal owner of the Stockton Ports Baseball Team, a Class A Farm Team of the Milwaukee Brewers, during which time the Ports won two championships and held the best overall record of any team in professional baseball.
Cowan is a graduate of Harvard College and Yale Law School. He is married to attorney Aileen Adams, former Secretary of State and Consumer Affairs for the State of California and former director of the Justice Department’s Office for Victims of Crime. They have two children, Mandy and Gabe.