Kofi Annan, the seventh secretary-general of the United Nations, has accepted MIT's invitation to be the speaker at the MIT Commencement exercises on Friday, June 6.
Born in Ghana in 1938, Mr. Annan received his master's degree in management from the Sloan School in 1972. He has three decades of service with the world organization. He is fluent in English, French and several African languages. He was undersecretary-general for peace-keeping operations on December 17 when he was appointed by the General Assembly to serve a five-year term of office beginning Jan. 1, 1997. Mr. Annan is an active alumnus who has visited MIT in recent years.
"It is a wonderful opportunity and honor for MIT's graduates and their families to be addressed by the secretary-general. This will be one of his earlier major addresses as he begins his tenure," President Charles M. Vest commented.
"I look forward to his message, which will derive from his unique experience and position at a time when the world again looks to the United Nations for leadership and hope. It is especially appropriate to hear from an international leader who is an MIT alumnus. It will remind us once again of the important role MIT plays in the world."
Mr. Annan has carried out a number of sensitive diplomatic assignments, including negotiating the repatriation of over 900 international staff and the release of Western hostages in Iraq following that country's invasion of Kuwait in 1990; initiating discussions on the "oil-for-food" formula to ease the humanitarian crisis in Iraq; and overseeing the transition from the United Nations Protection Force in former Yugoslavia to the multinational Implementation Force led by NATO following the 1995 Dayton peace agreement.
Mr. Annan was undersecretary-general for peace-keeping operations from 1993 until his new appointment, except for five months ending in March 1996 as UN special envoy to the former Yugoslavia.
He was educated at the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana; Macalester College in St. Paul, MN; the Institut de Hautes Etudes Internationales in Geneva, and MIT.
He has devoted his career to the United Nations, having served in Ethiopia, New York, Geneva and Egypt from 1962 to 1974, when he became managing director of the Ghana Tourist Development Co. for two years. Since 1976, he has served in administrative positions at the UN High Command for Refugees in Geneva and at UN headquarters in New York, where he has been director of administrative management services and the budget.
In 1986, Mr. Annan became assistant secretary general in the Office of Human Resources Management for four years, and then became controller in the Office of Program Planning, Budget and Finance for two years before going to the peacekeeping office in 1992 and receiving promotion to undersecretary-general in 1993.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 12, 1997.