2006 Honorary Degree Recipient
Judith A. McHale
Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa
The president and chief executive officer of Discovery Communications Inc., Judith A. McHale is regarded as one of the nation’s most successful media executives. She is widely respected
not only for her outstanding leadership of the company, but also for setting high standards in family-friendly corporate practices. For her tremendous contributions to the business, education, and community service sectors and for distinguished leadership in the realm of corporate responsibility, McHale today is being awarded the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.
McHale joined Discovery Communications in 1987 as general counsel. She served as president and chief operating officer from 1995 until being named president and CEO in 2004. In her current role, she is responsible for the overall strategic direction, business development, and operations of Discovery’s significant resources and properties in the United States and abroad. With her visionary leadership, Discovery Communications has grown from its core business, the Discovery Channel, to become a global leader in television, advanced media, education, and online and retail services. Discovery Communications now operates in 170 countries and territories reaching nearly 1.4 billion total subscribers.
During her tenure at Discovery, McHale has overseen the launches of Animal Planet and Discovery Health Channel and the acquisitions of TLC (The Learning Channel) and the Travel Channel. She negotiated Discovery’s global alliance with the BBC, which develops programming and channels around the globe. McHale expanded the company’s retail services by acquiring The Nature Company stores in 1996, creating a nationwide chain of more than 100 Discovery Channel Stores. Also under her direction, Discovery enhanced its strategic business focus by forming Discovery Education in 2004. Its digital media- and multimedia-based educational programs now reach more than 90,000 schools across the United States. In 2006 Discovery launched COSMEO, a revolutionary online homework help service that harnesses the power of broadband and media to help kids achieve academic breakthroughs.
Outside the boardroom, McHale is perhaps best known for her success in building a corporate culture that encourages employees to balance work and personal life. Since her arrival there, Discovery has been named one of the 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers by Working Mother magazine six years in a row. In 2004 the magazine named McHale a National Family Champion, recognizing her foresight in providing such family-friendly services as emergency dependent care, telework opportunities, and an on-site physician at Discovery’s headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. Discovery has been recognized by Fortune, Health, and Washingtonian magazines as a great place to work.
McHale is admired for the role she plays in Discovery’s commitment to corporate social responsibility. In 1997 McHale founded the nonprofit Discovery Channel Global Education Partnership as a means to bring together partners from the private and public sectors in support of a grassroots education and technology initiative serving populations left out of the Information Age. Working in ten countries in Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe, the partnership provides schools and communities in under-resourced areas with televisions, educational programming, and long-term teacher training.
McHale, who is the proud parent of University of Miami student Brian McHale O’Halloran, received her undergraduate degree at the University of Nottingham in England and a law degree at Fordham Law School in New York. She began her career as an attorney at the New York law firm of Battle, Fowler and served as general counsel for MTV Networks before joining Discovery. It is with great pride that we recognize Judith A. McHale among the University of Miami’s 2006 honorary degree recipients.