National Geographic Society Newsroom Press Releases

National Geographic Society Strengthens Board of Trustees With Appointment of Five New Members

The 134-year-old nonprofit makes history by achieving gender parity and introducing the new role of Explorer Trustee

The National Geographic Society today announced the appointment of Ash Carter, Claudia Madrazo, Deborah Lehr, Dina Powell McCormick, and Paula Kahumbu to its board of trustees. Carter is the director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School. Madrazo is the founder of La Vaca Independiente and Transformation through Art and Education, as well as the founding member of the Academy for Systemic Change. Lehr is the chief executive officer of Edelman Global Advisory, a strategic business consulting firm. McCormick is the global head of sovereign institution coverage as well as the global head of sustainability and inclusive growth at Goldman Sachs. Kahumbu is the chief executive officer of WildlifeDirect and a National Geographic Explorer.

“On behalf of the entire board, I am delighted to welcome these five distinguished leaders to the National Geographic Society’s board of trustees,” said board chair Jean Case. “Collectively, their global expertise and knowledge will prove invaluable as we continue our ambitious mission to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world by using the power of science, exploration, education, and storytelling.”

This announcement marks two milestones for the 134-year-old organization.

For the first time, the board has reached gender parity, building on the Society’s continued commitment to advance its work around diversity, equity, and inclusion, including improving representation of women in leadership positions. In 2016, Case became the Society’s first woman to serve as chair, and in August 2020, the organization appointed Jill Tiefenthaler as the first woman to serve as its CEO.

The organization also created the new role of Explorer Trustee, a position to be held by a National Geographic Explorer. The organization invests in a global community of Explorers composed of scientists, conservationists, educators, storytellers, and technologists. Wildlife conservationist and National Geographic Explorer Paula Kahumbu, who has dedicated her career to protecting threatened wildlife and habitats in Kenya, will become the first Explorer to hold the role. Kahumbu has been part of the National Geographic community for 12 years; in June 2021 she was named the Rolex National Geographic Explorer of the Year.

“To illuminate and protect the wonder of our world, we greatly benefit from having diverse perspectives in the boardroom and across our organization. I am thrilled to welcome Ash, Claudia, Deborah, Dina, and Paula, whose range of perspectives, deep expertise, and wisdom will strengthen our mission and vision,” said Jill Tiefenthaler, CEO of the National Geographic Society. “Together, we have a clear vision to drive significant impact—and Explorers are the key. Paula is an extraordinary ambassador for our Explorer community, and her insights add a critical new voice to our board to ensure we remain at the forefront of exploration and discovery.”

Madrazo, Lehr, McCormick, and Kahumbu assumed their roles on January 1, 2022. Carter will join the board in January 2023.

More About Ash Carter

Carter is the director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School, where he leads the Technology and Public Purpose project. Previously, he served as the 25th Secretary of Defense after serving as the COO and weapons czar in the Pentagon. For more than three decades, Carter has leveraged his experience in national security, technology, and innovation to spearhead and enhance technological capabilities for the U.S. government and investment firms. He launched the “Force of the Future” initiatives that improved the DOD’s recruitment, training, and retention of staff, which included the mandate that all military positions be opened to women. Currently, Carter is a member of The MIT Corporation and Delta Air Line’s Board of Directors, and he also advises the MITRE Corporation and Lincoln Laboratories on technology matters. Carter earned his bachelor’s degree at Yale University and his doctorate from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.

More About Claudia Madrazo

Madrazo has been interested in learning and exploring the world since her childhood. She founded La Vaca Independiente, a social enterprise focused on innovative education and the promotion of human development through art. She also developed the education methodology dia (development of intelligence through art), which has trained more than 25,000 teachers and benefited more than 500,000 students in Mexico. Madrazo serves on the boards of The Nature Conservancy and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and the National Geographic Society’s Hubbard Council. Madrazo is the author of nine books as well as many essays and articles. She received her bachelor’s degree from Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico City, and her master’s degree from Essex University.

More About Deborah Lehr

Lehr is the chief executive officer of Edelman Global Advisory, a strategic business consulting firm. In addition, she is the executive director of the Paulson Institute, a think tank founded by former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. Lehr previously supported leading Western and Chinese organizations to grow their presence in the world’s most complex markets. In addition, she is the founder and chairman of the Antiquities Coalition, which works with governments across the world to fight against antiquities trafficking. Lehr serves on the International Advisory Board of the London School of Economics, the World Monuments Fund Board, and the Middle East Institute Board. Lehr is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She received her bachelor’s from Trinity University and her master’s from George Washington University.

More About Dina Powell McCormick

McCormick is a member of the management committee at Goldman Sachs, where she serves as global head of Sovereign Institution Coverage and as Global Head of Sustainability and Inclusive Growth. McCormick held various roles with the firm from 2007 to 2017 before she served as the U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy from 2017 to 2018. McCormick has also served in the United States government across two administrations. Most recently, as the deputy national security advisor and previously as assistant secretary of state and as a senior White House advisor to the President. McCormick is currently a nonresident Senior Fellow at the Future of Diplomacy Project at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas.

More About Paula Kahumbu

Kahumbu is a National Geographic Explorer and the chief executive officer of WildlifeDirect, a Kenyan conservation NGO. She spearheaded the Hands Off Our Elephants campaign, which is widely recognized for its singular successes in advocacy and the engagement of the people of Kenya to support the protection of elephants. Through her work, Kahumbu has reduced elephant poaching by 80 percent over five years. Kahumbu is the winner of many awards and accolades, including the 2021 Rolex National Geographic Explorer of the Year and the 2021 Whitley Gold Award. She is a trustee of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and the Maun Science Park Botswana. Kahumbu received her Ph.D. in ecology from Princeton University. Kahumbu will become the first National Geographic Explorer to join the Society’s board of trustees.

Media Note: Headshots available here.

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 15,000 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 www.nationalgeographic.org or follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.