Sir James Wolfensohn Announced as 2011 Commencement Speaker

CMC has announced that Sir James Wolfensohn, former World Bank president, international financial adviser, philanthropist, and Honorary Knight of the Order of the British Empire, will deliver the keynote address at Claremont McKenna College’s 64th Annual Commencement ceremonies at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 14. The event takes place on Pritzlaff Field, south of Bauer Center.

Mr. Wolfensohn is a legendary figure in global finance, and his understanding of the global economyspecifically emerging marketsis considered exceptional. He is chairman of Wolfensohn & Company, LLC, a private investment firm, and serves as an advisor to corporations and governments.

Wolfensohn served as the ninth president of the World Bank Group from 1995-2005, making a name for himself as a determined reformer. He was the third president in the World Bank’s history to be reappointed for a second five-year term by the board of executive directors, and while president, he travelled to more than 120 countries to pursue challenges facing the World Bank, particularly with regard to poverty and environmental issues. He led initiatives on debt reduction, environmental sustainability, anti-corruption programs, and AIDS prevention and treatment, developed activities on religion and culture, and decentralized offices overseas linked by the most modern telecommunications system in the international community.

The Economist praised Wolfensohn’s decade as World Bank leader, calling him one of the bank’s most influential presidents. “He put debt relief for poor countries firmly on its agenda, along with a more open discussion of corruption,” the writer notes. “He wooed the bank’s critics, especially some of the hypercritical NGOs. Above all, his indefatigable energy served as a tonic to an institution that had been in the doldrums for some time.”

At the end of his second term, Wolfensohn assumed the post of Special Envoy for Gaza Disengagement for the Quartet on the Middle East, a position he held until April 30, 2006. In this role, he helped coordinate Israel’s planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and spearheaded reconstruction efforts as Palestinians assumed sovereignty over the area. “It provided a moment of hope in the entire Israeli-Palestinian scene.”

Throughout his career, he also has closely involved himself in a wide range of cultural and voluntary activities, especially in the performing arts.

In 1970, Wolfensohn became involved in New York’s Carnegie Hall, first as a board member and later, from 1980 to 1991, as chairman of the board, during which time he led its successful effort to restore the landmark New York building. He is now Chairman Emeritus of Carnegie Hall.

In 1990, Wolfensohn became chairman of the board of trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and on January 1, 1996, was elected Chairman Emeritus.

He has been president of the International Federation of Multiple Sclerosis Societies, director of the Business Council for Sustainable Development, and served both as chairman of the Finance Committee and as director of the Rockefeller Foundation and of the Population Council, and as a member of the Board of Rockefeller University.

He is an honorary trustee of the Brookings Institution, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Century Association in New York, and has served as chairman of the board of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University for the last 18 years. He also serves as a distinguished member of the selection committee for the Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership.

Born in Australia in December 1933, Wolfensohn is a naturalized U.S. citizen. He holds B.A. and LL.B. degrees from the University of Sydney, and an M.B.A. from the Harvard Graduate School of Business. Before attending Harvard, he was a lawyer in the Australian law firm of Allen, Allen & Hemsley.

Wolfensohn served as an officer in the Royal Australian Air Force, and was a member of the 1956 Australian Olympic Fencing Team.

He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Fellow of the American Philosophical Society. His numerous awards for volunteer work include the first David Rockefeller Prize of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, for his efforts in culture and the arts.

In May 1995, he was awarded an Honorary Knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II for his contribution to the arts. He also has been decorated by the governments of Australia, Belgium, Brazil, France, Japan, Germany, Georgia, Mexico, Morocco, The Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Pakistan and Russia.

More about CMC’s 2011 Commencement ceremonies, including a detailed schedule and information on parking and hotel accommodations, can be found here on the Commencement website.