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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...

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

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About National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 14,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content. To learn more, visit or follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Meet the Author

Author Photo David Max Braun
More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max 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. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed 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. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn