2014 Commencement Speaker
Judy A. Smith (WCL/JD ’86) is the founder and president of Smith & Company, a leading strategic and crisis communications firm with offices in Washington D.C. and Los Angeles. Over the last 25 years, Smith has brought her unique combination of communication skills, media savvy, and legal and political acumen to clients facing a wide array of issues and challenges throughout the United States and abroad.
She will speak at the commencement ceremony for American University’s Washington College of Law at 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 18 in Bender Arena. She will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.
Smith honed her skills through her experiences with some of the most historic and sensational events of our time, including the Iran-Contra investigation, the prosecution of former Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, the 1991 Gulf War, the Los Angeles riots, the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Justice Clarence Thomas, the President Clinton scandal involving Monica Lewinsky, the congressional inquiry of Enron, the General Petraeus CIA scandal, and the United Nations Foundation and World Health Organization response to the SARS epidemic.
Prior to founding Smith & Company, Smith was a partner at several Washington D.C.- based public relations firms. Before that, Smith served as senior vice president of corporate communications at NBC. Additionally, she served as NBC’s chief spokesperson for domestic and international programming and business ventures, and also helped with the groundbreaking launch of MSNBC.
In 1991, Smith joined the White House with her appointment as special assistant and deputy press secretary to President George H. W. Bush. During her tenure she provided the president and his Cabinet with communications advice on a wide range of foreign and domestic issues.
Smith received a bachelor of science degree in public relations from Boston University and graduated from the American University Washington College of Law, where she was the first African-American woman to serve as executive editor of the Law Review.
As a result of her wide ranging and groundbreaking career, Shonda Rhimes, creator of ABC’s hit television dramas Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice, developed a television drama about the world of crisis management inspired by Smith. The series, entitled Scandal, revolves around the life and work of a professional fixer. Smith serves as co-executive Producer of the project and provides insight and technical expertise on crisis management issues.