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Washington Post’s executive editor to speak at 2014 commencement
Marty Baron ’76, who has held editorial leadership at some of America’s top newspapers, will give the main address at Lehigh’s 146th commencement on May 19, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Propp/Washingtonian Magazine.)
Martin “Marty” Baron, a 1976 Lehigh alumnus and current executive editor of The Washington Post, will deliver the address at the 146th commencement on Monday, May 19th, 2014.

At the ceremony, he will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

Prior to joining The Post in early 2013 to oversee print and digital news operations, Baron had served as editor of The Boston Globe since 2001. During his tenure, the Globe won six Pulitzer Prizes for public service, explanatory journalism, national reporting and criticism.

“We are thrilled that Marty Baron will be speaking to our graduates this year,” said Lehigh President Alice P. Gast. “His great experience and leadership throughout his impressive journalistic career will be an inspiration to our students.  His work illustrates the critical role that good journalism can play in informing and engaging people on important issues.”

David Anastasio, professor and chair of earth and environmental sciences and chair of the commencement speaker nominating committee, said the group considered several nominees before selecting Baron to speak to members of this year’s graduating class and their families.

“His distinguished work and achievements with the nation’s most prestigious newspapers impressed the committee and set a high standard of excellence for the university’s graduates,” said Anastasio. “The committee of faculty and students very much looks forward to hearing Baron’s remarks at the May 2014 commencement exercises.”

Selection committee member Maximilian Perricone ‘14, an economics major from Fairfax, Va., said he is optimistic that Baron will discuss the importance of journalism and “the need to be involved in current affairs and today’s global environment.

“I think that he will be able to address ways in which we can tie our Lehigh experiences to our future goals,” he added.

Meghan DeVaney ‘14, a mathematics and religion studies double major from Pilesgrove, N.J., said she hoped that her classmates are as excited as she and other committee members are to have Baron back on campus.

“As a well-established Lehigh alum,” DeVaney said, “Mr. Baron’s speech will serve as a reminder to students that through hard work and dedication to our passions, a Lehigh degree can truly take you far in life.”

A long and distinguished career

Born in raised in Tampa, Baron graduated from Lehigh with both bachelor of arts and MBA degrees. While at Lehigh, he was a member of The Brown and White editorial staff, becoming editor-in-chief his junior year.

He began his journalism career at the Miami Herald in 1976, serving as a state reporter and later as a business writer, according to his Washington Post profile. In 1979, he moved to the Los Angeles Times, where he became business editor in 1983; assistant managing editor for page-one special reports, public opinion polling and special projects in 1991; and, in 1993, editor of the newspaper’s Orange County edition, which then had about 165 staffers.

In 1996, Baron moved to The New York Times and became associate managing editor responsible for the nighttime news operations of the newspaper in 1997. He was named executive editor at The Miami Herald at the start of 2000.

The next year, The Miami Herald won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news coverage for its coverage of the raid to recover Elián González, the Cuban boy who was the center of a controversial immigration and custody dispute. The Herald’s coverage included an iconic image of Gonzalez’s fearful reaction to armed federal agents who entered a private home to retrieve the boy after relatives defied then-U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno’s order that the boy be returned to his father in Cuba.

In July 2001, Baron assumed leadership of The Boston Globe, which earned the prestigious public service Pulitzer in 2003 for its coverage of the concealment of sexual abuse by clergy in the Catholic Church. The Globe was honored, according to the Pulitzer website, “for its courageous, comprehensive coverage ... an effort that pierced secrecy, stirred local, national and international reaction and produced changes in the Roman Catholic Church.”

In a Spring 2013 feature on Baron that ran in Acumen, the magazine of Lehigh’s College of Arts and Sciences, Baron said that investigative series remains his proudest professional accomplishment, most notably for the sense of justice for victims of abuse, the sweeping changes it forced in the church and the broad impact it had on media.

“We did almost 1,000 stories on the topic,” he told Acumen. “We went to the court to have documents unsealed that the church had hoped to keep secret, documents that addressed the fact that the church knew these priests had abused and continued to abuse children. It forced the church to address issues that essentially had been swept under the rug for 40 to 50 years.

“The repercussions have continued to change the way news organizations cover sexual abuse in the church, as well as in other situations,” he added.

In his current editorial role with The Washington Post, Baron told Acumen that he hopes to build on the paper’s storied history of investigative and national reporting, while expanding local news and online video storytelling.

The Washington Post has an extraordinary staff,” he said. “They do incredible work day in and day out, year in and year out, and the role they play is still central in this country and this community.”

Over the course of his 37-career in the newspaper industry, Baron’s accomplishments have been recognized by his peers through numerous awards and honors, including being named Editor of the Year by Editor & Publisher magazine in 2001, and Editor of the Year by the National Press Foundation in 2004.