3/30/2015 Peter Durantine

HBO Chief Plepler '81 to Deliver Commencement Address

Chairman and CEO of Home Box Office Inc. Richard Plepler '81 will address Franklin & Marshall College's 2015 graduating class at the May 9 commencement.

F&M President Daniel R. Porterfield will bestow a Doctor of Letters on Plepler during the event scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. on Hartman Green. The broadcasting executive is regarded not only for his leadership in guiding the country's premier cable channel, which has produced award-winning programs such as "Boardwalk Empire" and "The Newsroom," but also his passion for culture and his deep concern for national and international affairs. 

Distinguished scholars Robert Kwesi Koomson '97, a math teacher and founder of an educational institution in Ajumako, Ghana, West Africa, and Sherry Turkle, the Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, also will be awarded an honorary degree.

"With all their accomplishments, these distinguished honorees offer our graduates a glimpse of what is achievable with all that they have accomplished their last four years here at Franklin & Marshall," Porterfield said. "Richard Plepler shows us there are no boundaries to your aspirations with a liberal arts education." 

After graduating F&M, Plepler worked for United States Sen. Chris Dodd, on whom he made an immediate impression for his thoughtfulness -- he had an idea for solving Middle East problems at the time that the senator patiently considered.

In 1984, Plepler moved from his hometown in Manchester, Conn., and started a public relations firm that he ran until joining TimeWarner eight years later as a senior executive in corporate communications. Three years later, he went to work for Jeffery Bewkes, who at the time was overseeing HBO. In 2007, Plepler became co-president of HBO, overseeing programming, and in 2013 ascended to chief executive.

"I very much look forward to conveying to the graduates what I've learned over the years in my career, and sharing what insights I've gained since my graduation," Plepler said.

The 56-year-old Plepler and his wife, Lisa, routinely arrange informal dinner parties with simple menus that bring a diverse group to the table in their Manhattan townhouse or Connecticut home. Politicians, actors, writers, artists, journalists and even heads of state -- former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres has been a guest -- arrive to discuss foreign affairs, politics and the arts.

Plepler is a voracious reader who continues to pursue knowledge out of curiosity in order to better understand the challenges of humanity and the triumphs of the human spirit.

"That's absolutely true, and I do it as my continuing education," he said. "There's so much to learn and so much to keep abreast of -- you can never go wrong learning too much."

A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, where he serves on the President's Advisory Board, and The Trilateral Commission, Plepler also serves on the board of trustees for the Asia Society and the New York Public Library, and is on the National Advisory Board of the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University.

Robert Kwesi Koomson '97 is a math teacher and former chair of the Math Department at the Westtown School in Westtown, Pa. In 2004 he founded the Heritage Academy, a licensed K-12 educational institution in Ajumako, Ghana, West Africa.

A special studies and mathematic major at F&M, Koomson is originally from the village of Breman Esiam in Ghana. After graduation, he earned a master's in mathematics from Villanova University and an MBA in business administration and management from West Chester University of Pennsylvania.

Koomson is executive director of the Schoerke Foundation, a nonprofit education philanthropy that his wife, Melissa Schoerke Koomson, founded in 2006. Since 2005, Koomson has initiated more than 15 trips to the Heritage Academy.  He and Melissa are re-locating to Ghana in June to spend a year teaching at the academy.

For their work in providing education to students in Africa, the couple was honored in 2014 with the Friends Council on Education's Leadership Award for Service to Society. U.S. Second Lady Jill Biden presented the award to them.

Koomson opened the academy for pre-kindergarteners to ninth-graders in a small church in his hometown of Breman Esiam with 32 students, later moving the school to an unused factory. He then established another pre-K-7th-grade school in the village of Ochiso, 30 minutes north of Breman Esiam. Six years later, he created a secondary school for grades 10 through 12 in Breman Esiam. The student population of the three schools is now 1,350 students. Students have a 100 percent passing rate for Ghana's national exam, a rarity for the villages' schools.

The Heritage Academy strives to teach students more than the material tested on the national exam, Koomson said. The instructors provide students with critical thinking strategies rather than pure memorization. 

Sherry Turkle, MIT's Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology, is the author of a series of books that explore human interaction with technology such as "The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit" and "Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet," as well as editor of three books about things and thinking. The most recent are "Falling for Science: Objects in Mind" and "The Inner History of Devices." Turkle's most recent book is "Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other," published in 2011.

Turkle is considered an expert on mobile technology, social networking, and sociable robotics. She is the founder and director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self. The New York Times, Scientific American, and Wired Magazine have profiled her; Ms. Magazine named her "woman of the year" in 1984, and Esquire Magazine named her among the "forty under forty" who are changing the nation in 1985.  She is a featured commentator on the social and psychological effects of technology for CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, the BBC, and NPR, and has appeared on Nightline, Frontline, 20/20, and The Colbert Report.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Turkle began her studies at Radcliffe College but took time off to live and work in France in the late 1960s. There, she experienced that country's era of social and intellectual unrest. She returned a few years later and completed her degree in social studies at Radcliffe. Turkle went on to earn a master's, and then a doctorate in sociology and personality at Harvard University in 1976. Her first book, "Psychoanalytic Politics: Jacques Lacan and Freud's French Revolution," was inspired by her time in France.

 

 

  • Richard Plepler '81, chairman and CEO of Home Box Office Inc. Richard Plepler '81, chairman and CEO of Home Box Office Inc. Image Credit: Home Box Office Inc.

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