UW News

June 3, 2021

Renowned marine scientist and former NOAA chief Jane Lubchenco to speak at 2021 commencement

UW News


Jane LubchencoJoy Leighton

Renowned marine scientist, University of Washington alumna and former head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Jane Lubchenco will deliver the 2021 UW virtual commencement address on June 12.

Lubchenco, now a professor at Oregon State University, was recently tapped by President Joe Biden to serve in an historic, newly created role as Deputy Director for Climate and Environment in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, which has been elevated to the President’s Cabinet. She was head of NOAA and Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere from 2009 to 2013 during the Obama Administration.

“We are very proud to count Dr. Jane Lubchenco among our alumnae and delighted that she will be this year’s commencement speaker,” said UW President Ana Mari Cauce. “As a scientist and policy expert, she exemplifies what is possible for our graduates to aspire to, and as we look toward a more hopeful future, her optimism and conviction make her the ideal person to share her experience and perspective.”

The Washington Post called Lubchenco one of the “most prominent women in climate science.” According to The Post, after heading NOAA she was the first U.S. State Department science envoy for the ocean, serving from 2014 to 2016, and she advised the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, a group that brings together 14 heads of state and government from Australia, Canada, Chile, Fiji, Ghana, Indonesia, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Namibia, Norway, Palau and Portugal to commit to sustainable uses of the ocean.

The scientific journal Nature named Lubchenco its inaugural “Newsmaker of the Year” in 2010.

“I’m delighted to be the featured commencement speaker for my alma mater’s graduating class at a moment when their generation’s fresh energy and talents are urgently needed to meet the many challenges we face,” Lubchenco said. “The class of 2021 has demonstrated grit and determination to graduate during the pandemic, and I’m honored to help launch them on the next phase of their journey.”

Lubchenco’s main body of work has been focused on climate science. She’s earned more than 20 honorary degrees, was a 1993 MacArthur Fellow and has earned many other accolades.

Lubchenco earned a master’s degree in zoology at the UW in 1971. She received her bachelor’s degree from Colorado College in 1969 and earned her doctorate in marine ecology from Harvard University in 1975.