Retired Adm. Thad Allen Named Mason’s 2011 Commencement Speaker

Posted: April 4, 2011 at 1:06 am, Last Updated: April 1, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Retired U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen

Thad Allen, the retired U.S. Coast Guard admiral who was selected by President Barack Obama to serve as the national incident commander in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill last year, will be Mason’s 2011 Commencement speaker.

Commencement will be held on Saturday, May 21, at 10 a.m. in the Patriot Center. The ceremony will be the university’s 44th commencement exercise.

Allen will receive an honorary doctor in humane letters at the ceremony.

On May 1, 2010, Obama asked Allen to serve as the national incident commander for the unified response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In this capacity, Allen was charged with oversight of all ongoing response efforts to cease the flow of oil and mitigate the effects of the worst oil disaster in U.S. history.

Working closely with the federal on-scene coordinator, the Environmental Protection Agency and organizations that included the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, Interior, Commerce and Health and Human Services, Allen sought to bring a global unity of effort to response endeavors.

As the government’s accountable party, Allen was also in charge of coordinating with various federal, state and local organizations, and directing the efforts of BP, the responsible party in the spill. Allen held this position while finishing his tenure as the commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard.

In May 2010, Allen completed his duties as the 23rd commandant of the Coast Guard, the most senior post in that service.

Continuing to serve his nation as the national incident commander instead of retiring at that time, Allen officially retired from active duty service on June 30, 2010, after 39 years of service.

Prior to his assignments as commandant and the Coast Guard chief of staff, Allen served as commander of the Coast Guard Atlantic Area in Portsmouth, Va., where he led the Coast Guard’s Atlantic Area response forces following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

In 2005, Allen was designated the principal federal official for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita responses and recovery operations throughout the Gulf region.

Allen is currently one of George Washington University’s Distinguished Professors of Practice. He teaches the Leadership in Large, Complex Organizations course, which focuses on how such organizations react to and manage unprecedented, anomalous events such as Hurricane Katrina, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the earthquake in Haiti. The course explores how these organizations interact with volunteer and nongovernmental entities, social media and state and local governments.

Allen is a native of Tucson, Ariz., and graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 1971. He holds a master of public administration degree.

Write to mediarel at gazette@gmu.edu