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News Release


U.N. Official Catherine Bertini '71 to Deliver Keynote Address
at UAlbany's Graduate Commencement 2003

Contact: Heidi Weber (518) 437-4980
Karl Luntta (518) 265-4114 cell

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 14, 2003) -- Catherine Bertini, a 1971 graduate of the University at Albany and the undersecretary-general for management to the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, will receive the University's Medallion and deliver the keynote address at the graduate commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 17. The ceremony will take place in the University’s Recreation and Convocation Center (RACC), uptown campus, beginning at 9 a.m.

Bertini, a UAlbany alumna, was appointed to the position of undersecretary-general in January. She is responsible for all administrative and managerial matters in the United Nations worldwide, including the leadership and management of U.N. senior officials dealing with budget, finance, human resources, management policy development, information systems, purchasing, travel, investments, facilities management and security of the staff in New York City.

Prior to her current position, Bertini served for 10 years as executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the world’s largest international humanitarian agency. She was appointed to that position in 1992 on the recommendation of President George H.W. Bush and was reappointed in 1997 with the endorsement of President Bill Clinton.

As WFP executive director, Bertini assisted hundreds of millions of victims of wars and natural disasters throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, parts of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. She was widely praised for her efforts to end famine in North Korea and for delivering enormous amounts of urgently needed food aid to Afghanistan in 2001; ensuring the provision of food supplies during the crises in Bosnia and Kosovo and averting the mass starvation that threatened 16 million people in the Horn of Africa in 2000.

While working at the organization’s headquarters in Rome, Bertini also modernized the administration of WFP to ensure its efficiency and effectiveness, and promoted the role of women in the management of WFP operations.

Prior to joining WFP, Bertini served as United States assistant secretary of Agriculture for Food and Consumer Services, and as acting assistant secretary of the Family Support Administration in the United States Department of Health and Human Services. She also worked in state government in Illinois and New York, and, for 10 years, was a public affairs officer for Container Corp. of America in Chicago. In 1986, Bertini was a fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. She has been active in politics in the United States for many years.

Bertini has been honored with the Republic of Italy’s Order of Merit and the Association of African Journalists’ Prize of Excellence. In 1996, The Times (of London) Magazine named her one of “The World’s Most Powerful Women.” Earlier in her career, a citation the American Public Welfare Association presented to Bertini noted that she “epitomizes the very best in public service.”

Bertini earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at UAlbany.
Prior recipients of UAlbany's Medallion include former Governor Mario Cuomo, former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and former Ambassador to the United States from Israel Itamar Rabnovich.

UAlbany's Commencement Weekend 2003 includes the formal graduate commencement, the main undergraduate degree conferral ceremony on May 18 as well as smaller, intimate departmental and school recognition ceremonies throughout the weekend. An estimated 2,700 students are expected to participate in UAlbany's 159th commencement ceremonies including 1,700 undergraduate, 870 master’s and 134 doctoral candidates.

For more information on commencement, visit

All commencement activities will take place, rain or shine, as scheduled. In the event of severe weather (lightning/high winds), an announcement will be posted on the Web site and the Commencement Info Line (518) 442-5310, noting any cancellations.

Established in 1844 and designated a center of the State University of New York in 1962, the University at Albany's broad mission of excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, research and public service engages 17,000 diverse students in eight degree-granting schools and colleges. The University is engaged in a $500 million fundraising campaign, the most ambitious in its history, with the goal of placing it among the nation's top 30 public research universities by the end of the decade. For more information about this nationally ranked University, visit

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