Changing Planet

Gary Knell Tapped to Lead National Geographic Society

National Geographic today named Gary E. Knell president and CEO of the National Geographic Society. Outgoing CEO John Fahey will continue as chairman of the National Geographic Board of Trustees.

The official statement from National Geographic:

The board of trustees of the National Geographic Society announced today that Gary E. Knell has been selected to succeed John M. Fahey as president and chief executive officer. Fahey will continue to serve as chairman of the board.

Knell’s appointment will occur later this year, following a transition from his current role as president and CEO of National Public Radio.

“After a comprehensive and global search, we are delighted to announce that the perfect person for this crucial role was right in our own backyard, in the person of fellow board of trustee member Gary Knell,” said Jean Case, co-chair of the search committee with trustee Roger Enrico. “Gary brings an extraordinary array of relevant experience from both the media and nonprofit worlds, and his passion for the Society’s mission has been evident from the day he joined our Education Foundation board several years ago. Our organization is in wonderful shape and effectively embracing change as well as the digital future, thanks in large measure to John Fahey, who has led us so ably these past 16 years — and we are incredibly fortunate that we will have the benefit of his continuing service as board chair along with Gary’s as CEO going orward.”

“I am deeply honored to have been chosen to lead this incredible organization as it celebrates 125 years of educating people through its media about the world in which we live,” Knell said. “This impressive legacy well positions the Society to make an even bigger difference in the world through exploration and storytelling. I am so looking forward to building on the momentum of expanding National Geographic’s global footprint throughout our rapidly changing digital world.”

“Gary is the right leader at the right time for the Society, and I am gratified that my successor is someone who has such close ties to this institution — along with a wealth of knowledge and global experience that will serve us well. I look forward to working with him in the years ahead,” Fahey added.

Knell has served as president and CEO of National Public Radio, one of the country’s most influential news organizations, since December 2011. Under his leadership, NPR has solidified its position in a rapidly changing media environment due to Knell’s ability to leverage the organization’s extensive network of member stations, drive cross-platform journalism and cultural programming, grow philanthropic and corporate underwriting support and draw new audiences to NPR’s distinct offerings. A strong advocate of innovation, Knell has made possible the exploration of new technologies that advance NPR’s core mission and grow audience for all of public media.

Knell’s career in media spans nearly three decades, including 22 years at Sesame Workshop. During Knell’s 12-year tenure as CEO, Sesame expanded its revenue base, worldwide audience and global recognition. Knell was instrumental in focusing the organization on Sesame Street’s worldwide mission, including the creation of groundbreaking co-productions in South Africa, India, Northern Ireland and Egypt. He also oversaw the creation and launch of two cable networks, Noggin and Sprout.

Prior to joining Sesame Workshop, Knell was managing director of Manager Media International, a print and multimedia publishing company based in Bangkok, Hong Kong and Singapore. He also has served as senior vice president and general counsel at WNET/Channel 13 in New York, was counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary and Governmental Affairs Committees in Washington, D.C., and worked in the California State Legislature and Governor’s office.

Knell is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He serves on the board of governors of the National Geographic Education Foundation and the boards of trustees of the National Geographic Society; Heidrick & Struggles, an executive search firm; the Jacob Burns Film Center; and Common Sense Media. He is an adviser to the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California and the Military Child Education Coalition.

A Gordon Grand Fellow at Yale University, Knell was a guest lecturer at Harvard University, Duke University, Southern Methodist University, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Puerto Rico. He has a B.A. in political science from UCLA and a J.D. from Loyola University School of Law in Los Angeles as well as honorary doctorates from Mercy College in New York and Kenyon College in Ohio.

12418031_10153900711084116_8462971761216697621_nDavid Braun is director of outreach with the digital and social media team illuminating the National Geographic Society’s explorer, science, and education programs.

He edits National Geographic Voices, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society’s mission and major initiatives. Contributors include grantees and Society partners, as well as universities, foundations, interest groups, and individuals dedicated to a sustainable world. More than 50,000 readers have participated in 10,000 conversations.

Braun also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship

Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn

Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media. David Braun edits the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn
  • Bob Dorman

    Congratulations Gary,
    I know NPR will miss your talent – I was noticing a very favorable impact you were making. Having known you for the past 35 plus years I’m delighted to see your career continue to flourish and your sphere of influence and opportunity expand. Congratulations and lots of good luck in your new CEO position. Bob Dorman

  • Ernesto C. Tamayo

    Congratulations Sir,
    Looking forward dealing business with you in Geography and Archeology.

About the Blog

Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

Opinions are those of the blogger and/or the blogger’s organization, and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Posters of blogs and comments are required to observe National Geographic’s community rules and other terms of service.

Voices director: David Braun (

Social Media