Durr Lecture Series



Geoffrey Cowan

Clifford Durr and the Importance of Principled Personal Decision Making in Public Life

April18, 1999
7:30 p.m.
Irma B. Moore Hall Auditorium

Ever since I lived with them in the summer of 1965, I have regarded Clifford and Virginia Durr as my personal heroes. Not even death diminishes the meaning of their lives.

—Geoffrey Cowan



William Honey


Chancellor Roy Saigo

The Endowment Fund

Ann Durr Lyon

Introduction of Geoffrey Cowan:
Dean of the Annenberg School for Communications and Former Director of the Voice of America.

William Honey

Mr. Cowan


Questions and Answers


Closing Remarks

Allen K. Hess

Geoffrey Cowan

For the past 25 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 University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication, which includes the university's School of Journalism, as well as all of its communication programs. The School has a faculty of 35 full-time members and 1,250 graduate and undergraduate students. He is professor of journalism and law in the School of Journalism, and jointly holds a professorial appointment in the USC Law School. He is the 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 that 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 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 to 1984 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 Marsh Mason, won CPB’s Gold Medal for Excellence in Best Live Entertainment. Cowan served as chair of California Common Cause, and he was chairman of the Los Angeles commission that wrote the city's ethics code, cited as model for the nation. Other civic activities included key roles in the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, The American Jewish Committee, Children Now, and the National Council on Families and Television.
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 baseball.
Cowan is a graduate of Harvard College and Yale Law School. He is married to Aileen Adams, former director of the Justice Department's Office for Victims of Crime and now California's Secretary of State and Consumer Affairs. The have two children, Mandy, 15, and Gabe, 25.