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Madeleine Kunin, Former Governor of Vermont, Receives Public Service Award
Madeleine Kunin

The Graduate School of Journalism has awarded Madeleine May Kunin, JN '57, the Dean's Medal for Public Service. Kunin is a former Governor of Vermont, U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Education. Each year, the Dean's Medal for Public Service is awarded to an alumnus/a for significant contributions to society through his or her professional accomplishments and civic involvement. The Dean's Medal honors extraordinary lifetime achievement by Columbia University Journalism School graduates, including those who have had outstanding and distinguished careers in fields outside of journalism.

"My Columbia University education strengthened my desire to have an impact on the world around me," said Kunin. "One way to do that is to ask questions, as a journalist, another way is to answer them, as a politician. No matter which side of the table one sits at, it is important to think about the consequences of the words used."

Kunin will be honored at an award ceremony to be held during the Graduate School of Journalism's Alumni Weekend Saturday, April 22, in the Low Library Rotunda. She is the second person to receive the Dean's Medal, first awarded in 2005. Last year's recipient was Daniel J. Edelman, '41, founder and chairman of Daniel J. Edelman, Inc.

A Career of Service

Kunin's remarkable political career has taken her from her home state of Vermont where she served as governor from 1985 to 1991 to the White House where she worked closely with the Clinton Administration as U.S. ambassador to Switzerland and as U.S. deputy secretary of education.

As governor of Vermont, Kunin focused her efforts on improving the quality of education and increasing public education funding. She created early education programs for low-income children and established state-wide kindergarten programs for all public schools. She also focused her attention on environmental issues. While in office, Kunin established programs to protect open spaces and farm land and helped retain Vermont's distinctive rural character. A former journalist and radio talk show host, Kunin is the first woman to have served three terms as governor of a state. Prior to her appointment as governor, she was lieutenant governor and a member of the Vermont General Assembly.

In Washington, Kunin served as U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education for the Clinton Administration and played a key role in establishing a more efficient system of managing student loans, initiated an office of educational technology and worked on a series of legislative acts including the Goals 2000: Educate America Act and the Safe and Drug-Free Schools Act. During this period, she also served on the President's Council on Sustainable Development, the board of the National Environmental Education and Training Foundation and the President's Interagency Council on Women. She also was a member of the U.S. delegation to the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.

Later, Kunin was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland by President Clinton, a post she held for the next three years and one that reconnected her to her birthplace. Born in Zurich, Switzerland, she immigrated to the United States in 1940 with her mother and brother.

Kunin currently is a visiting professor at the University of Vermont and St. Michael's College. She is a recipient of numerous awards, honorary degrees and recognition for her work in education, the environment and human services.

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Published: Mar 10, 2006
Last modified: Mar 10, 2006