Geoffrey Cowan

USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
Academic and government agency administrator; Educator; Lawyer; Writer (playwright, non-fiction writer); Producer
Leadership, Policy, and Communications
Journalism, Media, and Communications


Professor Geoffrey Cowan is a University Professor at the University of Southern California, where he holds the Annenberg Family Chair in Communication Leadership and directs the Annenberg School's Center on Communication Leadership and Policy. From 2010 to 2016, he was also President of The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands. From 1996-2007, Cowan served as dean of the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. At USC Annenberg, he launched academic programs in public diplomacy, specialized journalism, strategic public relations, global communication and online communities. Under his leadership, USC Annenberg's endowment rose from $6.5 million to $183.5 million. Prior to becoming dean, President Clinton appointed Cowan to serve as the director of the Voice of America), the international broadcasting service of the U.S. Information Agency. He was the 22nd director of the VOA; his father, a former president of CBS, was the second director of VOA in 1943-45. Cowan 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. From 1979-84, he was a member of the Board of Directors of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and played a key role in the development of National Public Radio. An award-winning author, Cowan's books include: See No Evil: The Backstage Battle Over Sex and Violence on Television (Simon & Schuster, 1980), and the best-selling The People v. Clarence Darrow: The Bribery Trial of America's Greatest Lawyer (Random House, 1993). In addition to his tenure at USC, Cowan spent twenty years as a professor of communication law and policy at UCLA, where he received numerous teaching awards and founded the Center for Communication Policy. Concurrently with his teaching at UCLA, Cowan was a television producer. He won an Emmy as executive producer of the television movie Mark Twain & Me, which was voted Outstanding Prime Time Program for Children by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. With the late Leroy Aarons, Cowan co-wrote the award-winning play, "Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers," which explores the delicate balance between the press, public's right to know and the government's need to protect some vital national secrets. He is a Walter Lippmann Fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science and member of the Council of Foreign Relations.

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