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Graduate Commencement keynote speaker, Catherine Bertini, B.A.í71, takes on her next challenging role at the United Nations.

Speaking from a lifetime of experience, UAlbanyís Catherine Bertini, í71, appealed to the masterís andPresident Karen R. Hitchcock awarding Catherine Bertini the University Medallion doctoral graduates about the importance of making a difference in the lives of others. Formerly the U.N.ís executive director of the World Food Programme, Bertini was recently appointed by Secretary General Kofi Annan, to serve as the U.N.ís undersecretary-general for management. In her new position she focuses on improving communication and information technology, intensifying efforts to recruit more women to the U.N. staff and revamping the budget process.

As executive director of the U.N.ís World Food Programme, based in Rome, Italy, Bertini was the first woman and first American to ever lead the WFP.  She dramatically improved the agencyís efficiency, enabling it to feed tens of millions more people than ever before. "We helped people stay alive every day, children to grow, and women to improve their lives through food aid," she said. "When we got food to women, we helped to meet the WFPís objective, which is to end hunger and empower women."

Catherine Bertini at a North Korean school that receives food from the World Food Programme.

Photo by Thomas Haskell

As an undergraduate, Bertini first considered becoming a music teacher, but later majored in political science. She served as a legislative aide, was active in student government, class and residence hall events, was a member of Chi Sigma Theta sorority and played the clarinet in a University wind ensemble. As a senior she worked full time in the last gubernatorial campaign of Nelson A. Rockefeller, then went to work in the governorís office.

Being at UAlbany was significant for Bertini. "I could learn about government, from both an academic and practical perspective.  It was also critical, looking back on my career, to be involved in politics at a young age. We learned a lot about how to operate within the system. I also learned the benefit of having a lot of close friends and how important it was to keep up that network, because itís important for your personal well-being, your career aspirations and your day-to-day life. Those friendships are lifelong."

Catherine Bertini was honored with the University Medallion at the graduate commencement, the highest honor the University bestows upon individuals. Bertini is one of UAlbany's more than 123,000 living alumni pursuing successful careers in a wide range of fields, including teaching, medicine, law, business and government.

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