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PEN American Center Names Suzanne Nossel as Executive Director

January 16, 2013

New York City—PEN American Center, the largest branch of the world’s oldest literary and human rights organization, announced today the appointment of human rights advocate and non-profit leader Suzanne Nossel as Executive Director. Ms. Nossel succeeds Steven Isenbergwho left at the end of 2012 after three and a half years at the helm of PEN.

Nossel comes to PEN with deep experience in the public and private sectors and in the human rights arena. She most recently served as the Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, where she led a strategic reorganization to strengthen Amnesty’s external human rights impact and focus on building the next generation of human rights activists. She also led successful efforts to secure passage of the Afghan Women and Girls Security Promotion Act of 2012 and convened a historic youth Town Hall with Burmese Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Peter Godwin, President of PEN’s Board of Trustees, said, “I’m delighted to welcome Suzanne Nossel as the new Executive Director of PEN American Center. Her demonstrated managerial abilities, energetic commitment to human rights, and depth of experience in non-profit leadership uniquely qualify her for this vital role. I’m confident that she will galvanize our mission to promote literature and defend free expression and that she will help navigate a path to build and strengthen PEN with vigor, resolve, and imagination. I greatly look forward to working with her. On behalf of PEN’s Board of Trustees, I’d also like to express our gratitude for Steve Isenberg’s dedicated leadership and his significant contributions to PEN." 

“I am thrilled” Nossel said, “to be joining PEN and working with its distinguished and forward-looking leadership to chart a course to defend freedom of expression amid the challenges posed by new technologies, emerging media platforms, and new tactics of repression. PEN has a crucial role to play in ensuring that political transitions underway globally afford writers, intellectuals, and all individuals the freedom to think, write, share their ideas, and shape their societies. The community of renowned writers at the core of PEN, including so many authors whose works have inspired me personally for decades, is a constituency unmatched in its creativity and insight, and in its potential as a force for free thought and respect for human rights.”

Nossel also previously served in the Obama Administration, where, as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations, she oversaw U.S. engagement in the UN Human Rights Council, championing groundbreaking resolutions on freedom of expression; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights; and human rights abuses in Iran, Libya, Syria, Cote d’Ivoire, and elsewhere.  Prior to that she was the Chief Operating Officer of Human Rights Watch and Deputy to the U.S. Ambassador for UN Management and Reform at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. She has also served as a Visiting Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and as an executive at Dow Jones/The Wall Street Journal and at Bertelsmann. Nossel spent two years in South Africa working to address political violence during that country’s transition into democracy, a formative experience in her development as a human rights activist. She has published pieces on international affairs and human rights in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Dissent, The National Interest, and Foreign Affairs magazine, where she coined the term “Smart Power,” the title of a 2004 article. 

Nossel received her A.B. from Harvard College and her J.D. from Harvard Law School. She lives in New York City with her husband, the historian David Greenberg, and their children, Leo and Liza.

About PEN American Center:

For the last 90 years, PEN American Center has been working to ensure that people everywhere have the freedom to create literature, to convey information and ideas, to express their views, and to make it possible for everyone to access the views, ideas, and literatures of others. Together with International PEN, PEN American Center has brought  down barriers to free expression and reached across borders to celebrate, through writing, our common humanity.  PEN International has 145 centers in 104 countries, of which PEN American Center is the largest.

Known globally for its efforts to defend writers endangered because of their work, and for the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature and its prestigious literary awards, PEN American Center runs a full range of programs to expand the freedom to write and celebrate the vital and universal power of literature.

PEN American Center has led global campaigns demanding the freedom and safety of 2010 Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, renowned author Salman Rushdie and hundreds of others endangered or imprisoned because of their ideas. PEN has been at the forefront of documenting the use and consequences of torture in the United States and defining the parameters of free expression in the digital age.  PEN’s membership has always included the world’s most influential authors, poets, playwrights, translators, publishers, editors, agents, screenwriters, and journalists. In recent years the organization has focused on engaging and mobilizing the next generation of influential writers working in print, on screen and online.

Officers of the PEN American Center Board of Trustees include President Peter Godwin, Executive Vice President John Troubh, Vice Presidents Ron Chernow and Victoria Redel, Treasurer John Oakes, and Secretary Elinor Lipman. Trustees include Cara Benson, Susan Bernofsky, Edward Burlingame, Anne Burt, Jennifer Egan, Nathan Englander, Morgan Entrekin, Wendy Gimbel, Jeri Laber, Joanne Leedom-Ackerman, Erroll McDonald, Christian Oberbeck, Tess O’Dwyer, Hannah Pakula, Gregory Pardlo, Walter Pozen, Theresa Rebeck, Susanna Reich, Elissa Schappell, Elisabeth Sifton, Clinton Ives Smullyan Jr., Andrew Solomon, Rose Styron, Annette Tapert, Lynne Tillman, Danielle Truscott, Davis Weinstock, and Jacob Weisberg.

For more information, contact:
Emma Connolly, emma@pen.org (212) 334-1660 ext. 103

To find out more about PEN’s mission go to www.pen.org
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