Geoffrey Cowan is a lawyer, academic administrator, government official, best-selling author, distinguished professor, nonprofit executive, and Emmy Award-winning producer. After serving as the 22nd Director of the Voice of America, Cowan served as dean of USC Annenberg from 1996–2007. When he stepped down, he was named a University Professor, the inaugural holder of the Annenberg Family Chair in Communication Leadership, and director of USC Annenberg’s Center on Communication Leadership and Policy. He is also on the faculty of USC’s Gould School of Law.
In 2010, Cowan became the first president of the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands. As president, he hosted a range of important retreats and three summit meetings with President Barack Obama, including his historic meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping in June 2013.
Cowan’s books include: See No Evil: The Backstage Battle Over Sex and Violence on Television, the best-selling The People v. Clarence Darrow: The Bribery Trial of America’s Greatest Lawyer, and Let the People Rule: Theodore Roosevelt and the Birth of the Presidential Primary. He also co-wrote the award-winning play, Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers, and won an Emmy Award as executive producer of the television movie Mark Twain and Me.
Cowan is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Walter Lippmann fellow of the Academy of Political and Social Science.
A graduate of Harvard College and Yale Law School, Cowan is married to Aileen Adams, former deputy mayor of Los Angeles and former California Secretary of State and Consumer Affairs. They have two children, Gabriel Cowan, a filmmaker based in Los Angeles, and Mandy Adams Wolf, a teacher at The Center for Early Education.
Awards and honors
USC General Education Teaching Award (2018–2019).
Public Service Award, Common Cause (1997).
Primetime Creative Arts Award, Emmy (1992).
Gold Award for Top Secret, Excellence in Best Live Entertainment, Public Radio Program (1992).
“Man of the Year,” Los Angeles Council on Government Ethics Laws (1990).
Let the People Rule: Theodore Roosevelt and the Birth of the Presidential Primary (W.W. Norton & Company, 2016).
The People v. Clarence Darrow: The Bribery Trial of America’s Greatest Lawyer (Random House, 1993).
See No Evil: The Backstage Battle Over Sex and Violence on Television (Simon & Schuster, 1980).
The Democratic Choice: Report of the Commission on the Democratic Selection of Presidential Nominees, co-author (1968).
“The Washington-Madison Solution,” a chapter in The Death and Life of American Journalism: the Media Revolution That Will Begin the World Again, co-author (Winter 2010).
“Moving from Monologue to Dialogue to Collaboration: The Three Layers of Public Diplomacy,” co-author (The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 2008).
“The Legal and Ethical Limitations of Factual Misrepresentation” (The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 1998).
Top Secret (Los Angeles Theatre Works, 2011).