Gary Evan Knell (born 27 February 1954)[1] is the president and CEO of the National Geographic Society, one of the world's largest nonprofit organizations with a worldwide reach of more than 700 million people each month through its media, products and events. He joined National Geographic as chief executive in January 2014. He has been a member of the Society's board of trustees since April 2013 and has served on the board of governors of the National Geographic Education Foundation since November 2003.

From 2011 to 2013 he was president and CEO of National Public Radio NPR.[4] Prior to that he served as CEO of Sesame Workshop from 2000–2011.[5][6]

Early life

Knell graduated from Grant High School in Los Angeles, California, and earned a BA in political science from UCLA in 1975, followed by a law degree from Loyola Law School in L.A. in 1978.[1][3] While at UCLA, he worked on the school's newspaper, the Daily Bruin.[1]


Knell's media career spans nearly three decades. Before joining National Geographic as president and CEO in January 2014, Knell served as president and CEO of National Public Radio from 2011 to 2013. He led NPR's worldwide media operations, which include partnerships with 900 public radio stations. He oversaw the fiscal, operational and journalistic integrity of NPR and led the building of the organization and its philanthropic base to support and leverage the strengths of NPR and its extensive network of stations. A strong advocate of innovation, he was a key driver in leveraging new technologies to advance NPR's core mission and grew audience for all of public media.

Knell was CEO of Sesame Workshop for 12 years before joining NPR in 2011. He joined the company in 1989 and assumed the role of COO in 1998 before moving into the CEO role in 2000. During his tenure at Sesame, the organization expanded its revenue base, audience and global recognition. Knell was instrumental in focusing the organization on Sesame Street's worldwide mission, including the creation of groundbreaking co-productions in South Africa, India, Northern Ireland and Egypt.

Prior to joining Sesame Workshop, Knell was managing director of Manager Media International, a print and multimedia publishing company based in Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Singapore. He has also served as senior vice president and general counsel at WNET/Channel 13 in New York, was counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary and Governmental Affairs Committees in Washington, D.C., and worked in the California State Legislature and Governor's Office.

Knell is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He serves on the boards of Heidrick & Struggles and Common Sense Media as well as the advisory boards of the Military Child Education Coalition and the Pentagon Memorial Fund. He is an adviser to the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

A Gordon Grand Fellow at Yale University, Knell was a guest lecturer at Harvard University, Duke University, Southern Methodist University, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Puerto Rico. He received honorary doctorates from Kenyon College in Ohio and Mercy College in New York and has served as the commencement speaker at Johns Hopkins University, UCLA, and the University of Texas at Austin.

Knell received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from UCLA, where he also served as Editorial Director of the UCLA Daily Bruin and was a stringer for the Associated Press. He received a JD from Loyola University School of Law in Los Angeles.[7]

Personal life

Knell is married to Kim Larson, a non-profit fund raiser, and they have four children.[8]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Schlosser, Joe (2000-02-14). "Being Big Bird's boss". Broadcasting & Cable. 130 (7). p. 72. 
  2. ^ a b Who's Who In America - 2002 (56 ed.). Marquis Who's Who. 2001. 
  3. ^ a b Rainey, James (2011-10-19). "On the Media: Gary E. Knell wants to 'retell' the NPR story". Los Angeles Times. p. D1. 
  4. ^ Associated Press (2011-10-02). "Gary Knell named chief of NPR". USA Today. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  5. ^ "Gary E. Knell". Sesame Workshop. Archived from the original on 2010-12-05. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  6. ^ "Sesame Workshop Appoints H. Melvin Ming as President and CEO". Sesame Workshop. 2011-10-03. Archived from the original on 2011-12-26. Retrieved 2012-01-10. 
  7. ^ Knell, Gary. "NPR official bio". 
  8. ^ Brooke, Jill (2006-05-21). "Fun for the Entire Family, but Not All at Once". New York Times. p. 2 (Style). Retrieved 2011-10-26. 
Business positions
Preceded by
John M. Fahey
President and CEO of National Geographic Society
Succeeded by