Speakers and Honorees

Wendy R. Sherman, MSW

Former U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs

Wendy ShermanHonorary Doctor of Public Service

As someone who has traveled all over the world, including 54 countries in four years as U.S. under secretary of state, Wendy R. Sherman knows the best places to visit. Baltimore will always remain a favorite destination, making her role in UMB’s commencement ceremony on May 20 all the better.

“Baltimore will always be a deep part of everything I do,” says Sherman, a Baltimore native who graduated from the School of Social Work at UMB in 1976. “I grew up during so many changes from the end of segregation, to the end of the Vietnam War, to the transformation of downtown Baltimore, even in the face of deep challenges that remain to this day.”

She credits her parents with inspiring her to become a public servant, including as campaign manager for fellow School of Social Work alumna Senator Barbara Mikulski, then in the State Department for leaders from Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama to Secretaries Warren Christopher, Madeleine Albright, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry.

“My parents led the way on open housing and faced economic loss as a result, teaching me that doing the right thing is courage worth having,” says Sherman. “I helped then-Congresswoman Mikulski become a U.S. senator, teaching me that standing up for your community time and time again, and returning to your home and your roots every night, ensures that you fight for the right things.”

Other right things she fought for include serving as special secretary for Children and Youth in Maryland and director of Maryland’s Office of Child Welfare. She was director of EMILY’s List, founding president of the Fannie Mae Foundation, and founding partner and vice chair of The Albright Group, a global strategy firm that today is the Albright Stonebridge Group.

Now a non-resident senior fellow at Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center, Sherman hopes her selection as one of UMB’s honorary degree recipients “will inspire and encourage all professionals to provide public service at some point in their careers. Nothing is more satisfying than helping individuals, communities, or nations reach their goals.”

Sherman did just that as under secretary of state from 2011 to 2015. She traveled the world on America’s behalf, becoming fully engaged in the Central American refugee situation, the Ukraine crisis, the Syrian civil war, the struggle for stability in Libya and Yemen, the restoration of diplomatic ties with Somalia, the fight against Boko Haram in Nigeria, the confrontation with ISIL, and the successful conclusion of the Iran nuclear agreement.

Earlier, she was North Korea policy coordinator in the Clinton administration, assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs for Secretary Christopher, and counselor, with the rank of ambassador, under Secretary Albright.

Throughout her duties, the same principle inspired her. “I have been motivated all of my life by the belief that we each must contribute to creating a better world.”

Chris Zang

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