Keynote Speakers

2020*, 2021

Name: Stefan Ivanov ('95)
Date: May 9, 2021

*Due to the COVID-19 situation the Class of 2020 Commencement Ceremony was held on May 9, 2021

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Stefan Ivanov is a banker with 25 years of experience from around the globe.  He is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Challenger Capital Management - an investment banking boutique focused on Eastern Europe based in Sofia.  Prior to that he worked in senior roles at Citibank in London, Brazil, South Korea, Tunisia and most recently as CEO of Citibank in Bulgaria.  During his tenure the bank topped the rankings in the country in client satisfaction, return on equity and revenue to expense ratio.  Before that he was trading derivatives in New York with Banque Paribas as well as on floor of AMEX (the American Stock Exchange).  

He holds a BA degree in Business Administration from the American University of Bulgaria (Class of 1995), an MBA degree from Cornell University and is an Executive Development alum of Harvard Business School. 

Stefan is an aficionado of extreme endurance challenges and has participated in numerous marathons and ultra-marathons as well as swam across the English channel. In the summer of 2020, he rowed across the Atlantic Ocean with his 16-year-old son Maxim in a boat which they built from scratch in their garage and called NEVEREST (which meant to them “Never rest until you reach your Everest”). This was the first crossing of the Atlantic by a rowing boat east to west entirely within the hurricane season, while 2020 had the most active hurricane season ever recorded and Maxim was the youngest person to ever row across any ocean. Their crossing was dedicated to the cause of stimulating more people to take a decision to donate their organs for transplants after death in order to save lives.

Stefan is married to Jeni Sofronieva-Ivanova ('95) and has two children - Maxim and Lara.


Name: Valdrin Lluka ('05)
Date: May 19, 2019

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Valdrin Lluka currently serves as the Minister of Economic Development in the Government of the Republic of Kosovo (2017 – present), responsible for the development of the energy, mining and ICT sectors and the supervision of all public enterprises in Kosovo.

Some of the projects that Minister Lluka has developed and signed include the construction of a new, 1.3 billion euro powerplant, the establishment of the energy efficiency fund, the establishment of Kosovo Digital Economy Program (a 25 million EUR fund to digitalize the country), the establishment of TechPark Prishtina and Digital Excellence Center (some of the biggest parks in the region that support entrepreneurs and innovators), the establishment of creative centers in all high schools of Kosovo and digitalization of the water utility companies through smart grids.

Before he was nominated as a Minister, Lluka was an executive and entrepreneur with more than 12 years of experience in private sector development, management, management consulting and leadership development. While in private sector, Lluka led a chain of production facilities on fresh and processed food products, employing more than 200 employees and exporting 100% of its production (2015 – 2017). Earlier on, he worked for Deloitte, Carlson Consulting Enterprise and mobile virtual network operator Z mobile (2005 – 2010).

During his professional experience in public sector, Lluka demonstrated ability to develop, implement, and oversee innovative promotional activities to attract foreign investment into Kosovo and promote local products abroad through the Kosovo Investment and Enterprise Support Agency, a Government Agency under the Ministry of Trade and Industry where he served for 4 years as the General Director (2011 -2014). Lluka led the National Council of Economic Zones as appointed by the Cabinet of the Government of Kosovo and served at several economic development boards in and outside of Kosovo. 

Lluka volunteered as the co-chair of the Kosovo American Education Fund (KAEF) Committee (2014 – 2018). KAEF is dedicated to the long-term economic development of Kosovo through the education of its people. KAEF provides up to 8 graduate fellowships per year to promising Kosovars for top-level master’s degree at select U.S. universities.

Lluka holds an MBA degree from the University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management (2007 – 2009) and BA degree in Economics and Information Systems from the American University in Bulgaria (2002 – 2005). He is married and has a son.



Name: Rositsa Zaimova ('11)
Date: May 20, 2018

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Rositsa is a Co-founder and an Associate Partner at Dalberg Data
Insights (DDI), the big data entity of Dalberg Group, active in developing data products for more transparent governance in emerging markets. Rositsa is leading projects that support governments and development agencies in Africa, South & Central America and Asia in the areas of food security, access to finance, disease surveillance and smart cities.

Rositsa holds a BA degree in Business Administration and Economics from the American University in Bulgaria (Class 2011). After her studies at AUBG, she moved to Spain to pursue a MSc in International Management from ESADE Business School. During her studies, Rositsa learnt about businesses which put impact over profits. She got passionate about the immense opportunities to solve social problems with new technologies and sustainable business models. That is why she decided to start her career in a technology start-up in Germany and learn about building technology products.

In 2015, Rositsa moved to Brussels to join the Data-for-Good team at a data analytics company, which is building big data apps for the telecom industry. This is where she discovered about the potential to use data as a power for good – to create insights that support public and development actors to make better decisions. In early 2017, Rositsa helped create DDI as a spin-off from the data analytics firm Riaktr.

Rositsa is a member of the Global Shapers Community at the World Economic Forum and an Ambassador of One Young World. She was recently named one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Social entrepreneurs in Europe. Rositsa is based in Brussels, Belgium and spends most of her time traveling between Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe.



Name: The Honorable John Beyrle
Date: May 21, 2017

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Ambassador John Beyrle served as an American diplomat for more than three decades in foreign postings and domestic assignments focused on Central and Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, and Russia. He was twice appointed ambassador: to Bulgaria (2005-08) and to Russia (2008-12). During the latter assignment he led the implementation of policies resulting in improved U.S.-Russian relations, highlighted by the signing of the START nuclear arms reduction treaty, Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization, and liberalized visa formalities.

Ambassador Beyrle’s diplomatic service included two earlier tours at the U.S. embassy in Moscow, including as deputy chief of mission. He also served as counselor for political and economic affairs at the U.S. embassy in the Czech Republic, and a member of the U.S. delegation to the CFE arms control negotiations in Vienna. His Washington assignments included special adviser to the secretary of state for the New Independent States, and director for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian affairs on the staff of the National Security Council. He traveled extensively with Secretaries of State George Shultz and James Baker as a staff officer in the 1980s, and served as a Pearson Fellow and adviser to Senator Paul Simon, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Ambassador Beyrle received the Presidential Meritorious Service Award during the Administration of George W. Bush, and the Presidential Distinguished Service Award from President Obama. Secretary of State Clinton presented him with the Distinguished Service Award, the State Department’s highest honor. He retired from the Foreign Service in 2012. Ambassador Beyrle serves on the board of directors of the U.S. Russia Foundation for Economic Advancement and the Rule of Law and provides consulting services to non-profit and corporate clients.

A native of Muskegon, Michigan, Mr. Beyrle received a B.A. with honors from Grand Valley State University (1975) and an M.S. as a Distinguished Graduate of the National War College (1996), where he later taught as a visiting professor of national security studies. He speaks Bulgarian, Czech, French, German and Russian. He is married to Jocelyn Greene, also a retired Foreign Service officer. They have two daughters.



Name: Ambassador Eric Rubin
Position: U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Bulgaria
Date: May 22, 2016

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Eric S. Rubin assumed duties as U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria on Feb. 17, 2016.

Prior to assuming his duties as Ambassador, he was most recently Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs from July 2011 to July 2015. In this capacity he was responsible for issues related to Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and regional conflicts in Europe. Prior to that assignment, he served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow (2008-2011).

A career foreign service officer, Ambassador Rubin joined the State Department in 1985 following two years as a reporter trainee at the New York Times. His overseas assignments included working as the political and human rights officer in Honduras (1986-1988), Deputy Political Counselor in Kyiv (1994-1996), and Consul General in Chiang Mai, Thailand (2001-2004).

His Washington assignments include the State Department Operations Center (1989); the Office of Soviet Union Affairs (1989-1991); regional and security affairs officer for Central and Eastern Europe (1991-1993); special assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs (1996-1997); Assistant White House Press Secretary for Foreign Affairs and NSC Director for Public Affairs (1997); special assistant to Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Pickering (1998-1999); Director of the Office of Policy Planning and Coordination of the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (2004-2006); and Executive Assistant to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (2006-2008).

Ambassador Rubin holds a B.A. in history from Yale University. He was Dean and Virginia Rusk Fellow and a resident associate at Georgetown University's Institute for the Study of Diplomacy from 1999-2000. He speaks Thai, Spanish, French, Ukrainian, and Russian.

Excerpts from the short biography included in the commencement program booklet distributed at the ceremony 2016.



Name: Dr. Kristalina Georgieva
Vice President of the European Commission responsible for Budget and Human Resources
Date: May 17, 2015

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Kristalina Georgieva is currently Vice President of the European Commission, responsible for Budget and Human Resources. In this role, she is responsible for managing the EU budget and ensuring that it is invested in the best way to serve EU citizens. She is also in charge of the internal organization of the European Commission as an institution, and makes sure that Commission resources are used to deliver on priorities.

From 2010 to 2014, she was European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response. During her term in office she has overseen the delivery of life saving assistance to nearly 500 million children, women and men affected by conflicts and natural disasters around the world.  During her mandate Ms. Georgieva was named "European of the Year" and "EU Commissioner of the Year" as an acknowledgment of her work.

Before joining the European Commission in February 2010, she worked for the World Bank from 1993 to 2010. From 2008 to 2010, she was Vice President and Corporate Secretary, where she played a key role in the World Bank's governance reform and accompanying capital increase in the wake of the 2008 international financial crisis. From 2007 to 2008 she was Director for Sustainable Development.  In this role she oversaw around 60% of lending operations of the World Bank Group, including support to fragile and conflict-affected countries.

Kristalina Georgieva has an M. A. in Political Economy and Sociology and a PhD in Economic Science from the University of National and World Economy in Sofia, Bulgaria, where she was an Associate Professor between 1977 and 1991. She has researched and trained at the London School of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Business School among others.

Kristalina Georgieva was born in Sofia in 1953. She is married, with one child. In addition to her native Bulgarian she is fluent in English and Russian, and is constantly improving her French.

Excerpts from the short biography included in the commencement program
booklet distributed at the ceremony 2015.


Name: Ambassador Marcie B. Ries
Position: U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Bulgaria
Date: May 18, 2014

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Marcie Ries was sworn in as Ambassador to the Republic of Bulgaria on September 5, 2012.

Ambassador Ries is a senior Foreign Service Officer with thirty-five years of experience in Europe, the Caribbean and the Middle East.  A specialist in national security and political-military matters, she has worked on UN and NATO issues, strategic arms control, as well as bilateral relations with Western Europe, the Balkans and Iraq. 

Most recently, Ambassador Ries was Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance.  In connection with that assignment, she served as the Deputy Head of Delegation for the negotiation of the New START strategic arms reduction treaty with the Russian Federation.

In 2008-2009, Ambassador Ries was Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR).  In that capacity, she had responsibility for offices dealing with relations with the North Atlantic Alliance (NATO), the European Union (EU) and Western Europe, as well as strategic planning and personnel.  EUR includes 50 countries and 72 posts.

From 2007-2008, Ambassador Ries was Minister-Counselor for Political-Military Affairs in Baghdad, Iraq.  She has also served as United States Ambassador to Albania (2005-2007); Chief of Mission, U.S. Office Pristina, Kosovo (2003-2004); and Director, Office of United Nations Political Affairs (2001-2003).

Ambassador Ries’s experience abroad also includes service at the U.S. Embassy in London, four years at the U.S. Mission to the European Union in Brussels and tours in Turkey and the Dominican Republic.

Ambassador Ries is a graduate of Oberlin College and holds a Master‘s Degree in International Relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. 

She is a graduate of the State Department’s Senior Seminar and the Department of Defense Pinnacle Course and is a recipient of the U.S. Army’s Distinguished Civilian Service Medal, a Presidential Meritorious Service Award, and four Department of State Superior Honor awards.

Ambassador Ries is married to Ambassador (ret.) Charles Ries and has a son, Alexander, and a daughter, Meredith.

Excerpts from the short biography included in the commencement program booklet distributed at the ceremony 2014.


Name: Dr. Carl Djerassi (1923 - 2015)
Position: Professor of Chemistry, Author and Playwright
Date: May 11, 2013

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AUBG Commencement Speaker 2013

AUBG Honorary Degree Recipient 2013
Doctor of Humane Letters (honoris causa)

Carl Djerassi, who was born in Vienna, but spent part of his youth in Bulgaria, received all of his higher education in USA.  A writer and professor of chemistry emeritus at Stanford University, he is the author of over 1200 scientific publications and only one of two American chemists to have been awarded both of the two highest American scientific awards: the National Medal of Science (in 1973, for the first synthesis of a steroid oral contraceptive - ”the Pill”) and the National Medal of Technology (in 1991, for promoting new approaches to insect control). A member of the US National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as well as the Royal Society (London), the Leopoldina (Germany), the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAN), and many other foreign academies, Djerassi has received 30 honorary doctorates (including one from BAN) together with numerous other honors, such as the first Wolf Prize in Chemistry, the first Award for the Industrial Application of Science from the US National Academy of Sciences, the American Chemical Society’s highest award, the Priestley Medal, and more recently, the Erasmus Medal of the Academia Europaea (2003), the Great Merit Cross of Germany (2003), the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Chemists (2004), the Serono Prize in Literature (Rome, 2005), the Great Silver Decoration for Services to the Republic of Austria (2008), and the Edinburgh Medal (2011). In 2005, the Austrian Post Office issued a stamp in his honor.

During the past 23 years, he has published short stories, poetry  and five novels that illustrate as “science-in-fiction” the human side of science and the personal conflicts faced by scientists, as well as an autobiography, a memoir, and nine plays, of which three had already been staged in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian premiere of his latest play, Insufficiency, was presented at the AUBG theater hall on May 10, 2013. Five of his plays have also been broadcast as radio plays in Germany, Austria, Sweden, the Czech Republic, and USA.

Djerassi is the founder of the Djerassi Resident Artists Program near Woodside, California, which provides residencies and studio space for artists in the visual arts, literature, choreography and performing arts, and music. Over 2000 artists have passed through that program since its inception in 1982.

Djerassi lives in San Francisco, Vienna, and London.

(There is a website about Carl Djerassi’s writing at

Excerpts from the short biography included in the commencement program booklet distributed at the ceremony 2013.


Name: Mr. Dillyan Pavlov
Position: IT Entrepreneur
Date: May 13, 2012

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AUBG Commencement Speaker 2012

Dilyan Pavlov is a successful entrepreneur who co-founded and managed several software companies. The first one, Netage Solutions, was started back in 1998. It developed and marketed DynamoTM, the premier software-as-a-service front-office product for investment banks in the USA and Europe.

In 2006, Dilyan also helped co-found and manage ComMetric and ComEq, two other software firms specializing in high-speed digital processing of communications data to analyze the impact of media on company reputation and stock prices.

Previously to that, Dilyan worked as an analyst and then manager in investment banks such as the Bulgarian-American Enterprise Fund, KPMG Barents Group and Europa Capital Management. He managed the acquisition of several large industrial enterprises and their post-privatization restructuring and development.

Dilyan holds a BA degree in Business Administration and Applied Economics from the American University in Bulgaria. He also attended for 2 years the film directing class at the National Academy of Theater and Film Arts (NATFIZ) "Krustyo Sarafov."

Excerpts from the short biography included in the commencement program booklet distributed at the ceremony 2012.


Name: The Right Honorable Kim Cambell
Position: 19th Prime Minister of Canada
Date: May 15, 2011

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AUBG Commencement Speaker 2011

Kim Campbell served as Canada’s 19th and first female Prime Minister in 1993. She previously held cabinet portfolios as Minister of State for Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Minister of Justice and Attorney General, and Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans’ Affairs. She was the first woman to hold the Justice and Defence portfolios, and the first woman to be Defence Minister of a NATO country. Campbell participated in major international meetings including the Commonwealth, NATO, G-7 Summit, and the United Nations General Assembly.

After her tenure as Prime Minister, Campbell was a Fellow at the Institute of Politics and the Joan Shorenstein Center for the Study of Press and Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. She served as the Canadian Consul-General in Los Angeles from 1996 to 2000. In 2001, Campbell became a Fellow at the Center for Public Leadership at the Kennedy School; she was then invited to join the faculty as a lecturer and remains an Honorary Fellow.

From 2004 until 2006, Campbell served as Secretary General of the Club of Madrid, an organization of former heads of government and state who work to promote democratization through peer relations with leaders of transitional democracies. She is a founding member and additionally served as its Acting President in 2002 and Vice President from 2003 to 2004. Campbell currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Club of Madrid.

Campbell also served as Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders (CWWL) from 1999 to 2003. The Council’s membership consists of women who hold or have held the office of President or Prime Minister in their own country. From 2003 to 2005, Campbell served as President of the International Women's Forum, a global organization of women of significant and diverse achievement.

Campbell is Chair of the International Advisory Board of the Foundation for Effective Governance in Ukraine and Chair of the steering committee of the World Movement for Democracy, as well as a Trustee of the International Center for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence at King’s College London. She serves on the advisory boards of numerous international organizations such as the Club of Madrid, the Arab Democracy Foundation, the Forum of Federations, and the Middle Powers Initiative. She is a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy, (the West Coast affiliate of the Council on Foreign Relations). Campbell is a founding board member of Naissance Capital’s Women’s Leadership Fund, and her corporate director experience includes the high tech, bio-tech and medical devices industries. She is an international speaker and consultant on issues related to democratization and leadership.

Excerpts from the short biography included in the commencement program booklet distributed at the ceremony 2011.


Dr. Michael Bar-Zohar
Position: Historian
Date: May 16, 2010

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AUBG Commencement Speaker 2010

AUBG Honorary Degree Recipient 2010
Doctor of Humane Letters (honoris causa)

Born in Sofia, Bulgaria on January 30, 1938.

Immigrated to Israel in 1948, where he grew up. He subsequently did his military service in Air Force Intelligence and Paratroopers. As a soldier, he participated in four of Israel’s wars.   Bar-Zohar obtained a B.A. degree in Political Science from Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science and International Relations from the University of Paris, France. He was a professor at Haifa University and Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

A member of a Labor party, Bar-Zohar served two terms in the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament. He represented Israel at the Council of Europe and served as President of the France-Israel friendship league.

Bar-Zohar has had a distinguished career as a writer and has won many awards among which  the Ben-Gurion award; Knight of the Legion d’Honneur, France; Order of Madara, Bulgaria; Doctor Honoris Causa, University of Sofia; French Academy Award; Israel Sokolov Award [The Israeli Pulitzer]; Laureate of the International Migration Award.

A world renowned author, Bar-Zohar is the official biographer of David Ben-Gurion, Israel's founding father. He recently published an extensive biography of Shimon Peres, Israel's current President. Bar-Zohar is the author of many books of history and fiction, based on his own intensive research. Among them are the following: Suez Top Secret; The Hunt for German Scientists; The Avengers; Embassies in Crisis; The Paratroopers; Beyond Hitler’s Grasp: The Heroic Rescue of 50,000 Bulgarian Jews. He has also published several novels in the U.S. and many other countries throughout the world, some under the pen-names Michael Barak and Michael Hastings.

Bar-Zohar also wrote the screenplays for a full-length documentary film Ben-Gurion Remembers, for a documentary based on his book Beyond Hitler’s Grasp, and for a feature film Court Martial.

Bar-Zohar is one of the most popular Israeli speakers in the U.S. today. When he is in the U.S., he speaks almost daily throughout the country for the United Jewish Appeal, Israel Bonds, The Israeli government, Foreign Affairs associations, Universities, Book Clubs and Christian groups.

Bar-Zohar lives in Tel Aviv with his wife Galila, and their son Gil. He spends six months a year speaking and lecturing in the United States and Europe.

Excerpts from the short biography included in the commencement program booklet distributed at the ceremony 2010.


Name: Ms. Slavenka Drakulic
Position: Author and Journalist
Date: May 17, 2009

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AUBG Commencement Speaker 2009

AUBG Honorary Degree Recipient 2009
Doctor of Letters (honoris causa)

Slavenka Drakulic, born in Croatia  (former Yugoslavia) in 1949, is an author and journalist whose books are translated in over twenty languages. In the US she published five novels: Holograms of Fear;  Marble Skin;  The Taste of a Man; S. - A Novel About the Balkans, and Frida’s Bed.

She also published four non-fiction books: How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed; The Balkan Express; Cafe Europa, and They Would Never Hurt a Fly: War Criminals on Trial in The Hague.

Her essays appeared in The New Republic, The Nation, The New York Times magazine and The New York Review of Books. She contributes to Suddeutsche Zeitung  (Germany), Internazionale (Italy),  Dagens Nyheter (Sweden) and Politiken (Denmark). She is also a contributing editor to The Nation magazine (US).

Slavenka Drakulic is the recipient of the 2004 Leipzig Bookfair Award "for the European understanding.”

Slavenka Drakulic lives in Sweden and Croatia.

Excerpts from the short biography included in the commencement program booklet distributed at the ceremony 2009.


Name: Ambassador John R. Beyrle
Position: U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Bulgaria
Date: May 18, 2008

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AUBG Commencement Speaker 2008

AUBG Honorary Degree Recipient 2008
Doctor of Humane Letters (honoris causa)

John Beyrle presented his credentials to President Parvanov as U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria on September 8, 2005.  A career officer in the senior Foreign Service at the rank of Minister-Counselor, Ambassador Beyrle has held policy positions and foreign assignments with an emphasis on U.S. relations with Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, and the USSR since joining the State Department in 1983. 

Ambassador Beyrle’s overseas service has included two tours at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, most recently as Deputy Chief of Mission.  He was Counselor for Political and Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Prague, and a member of the U.S. Delegation to the CFE Negotiations in Vienna.  He served an earlier tour at the U.S. Embassy in Bulgaria 1985-87.  His Washington assignments include Acting Special Adviser to the Secretary of State for the New Independent States, and Director for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council.  He served as a staff officer to Secretaries of State George Shultz and James Baker, and as a Pearson Fellow and foreign policy adviser to the late Senator Paul Simon.

Ambassador Beyrle is the recipient of the Presidential Meritorious Service Award, the Baker-Wilkins Award as the State Department’s Outstanding Deputy Chief of Mission, and the Sinclaire Award for excellence in hard language study.  He has been awarded the State Department’s Superior Honor Award for outstanding performance four times. 

A native of Muskegon, Michigan, Ambassador Beyrle received a B.A. degree with honors from Grand Valley State University, and an M.S. degree as a Distinguished Graduate of the National War College, where he later taught as a Visiting Professor of National Security Studies.  His foreign languages are Bulgarian, Czech, French, German and Russian.  He is married to Jocelyn Greene, a fellow Foreign Service Officer; they have two daughters, Alison and Caroline. 

Excerpts from the short biography included in the commencement program booklet distributed at the ceremony 2008.


Name: Ms. Meglena Kuneva
Position: Commissioner for Consumer Protection in the European Commission
Date: May 13, 2007

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AUBG Commencement Speaker 2007

Meglena Kuneva graduated from the Faculty of Law at Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski in 1981; awarded PhD in Law in 1984.

She specialized in a number of universities abroad: International Relations and Environmental Law at Georgetown University, Washington, USA, 1995 and 1999-2000; Human Rights at Human Rights Institute, Turku, Finnland, 1993; Environmental Law at Oxford, UK, 1996.

Assistant professor at the Faculty of Law, Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski from 1987 to 1989, and lecturer at the Free University of Burgas and the New Bulgarian University, 1992-1994. Editor and presenter at the Bulgarian National Radio, January 1987-April 1990.

As a senior legal advisor at the Council of Ministers, 1990-2001, she participated in the drafting of a series of Bulgarian laws in Environment, Access to Information, etc.

A member of the Bulgarian delegation to the 4th Session of UN Commission on Sustainable Development, 1995.

Mrs. Kuneva was elected Member of Parliament in the 39th National Assembly, in June 2001, and appointed Deputy Minister and Bulgaria’s Chief Negotiator with the EU at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, August 2001.

She was appointed Minister of European Affairs and Bulgaria’s Chief Negotiator with the EU and a special representative of the Bulgarian government at the Convention for the Future of Europe, May 2002.

Elected Member of the 40th National Assembly, in May 2005, and reappointed Minister of European Affairs in August 2005. As from 1 January 2007 Ms. Kuneva is a Member of the European Commission in charge of the Consumer Protection.


  • Awarded the French Order of the Legion of Honour by French Minister of European Affairs Noelle Lenoir, on behalf of President of France Jacques Chirac, 2004.
  • Awarded the Order for Civil Merit of the Kingdom of Spain, Order Prince Henry of the Republic of Portugal, as well as the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity of the Republic of Italy.

Married, with one son.

Excerpts from the short biography included in the commencement program booklet distributed at the ceremony 2007.


Name: His Excellency Mr. Sergei Stanishev
Position: Bulgarian Prime Minister
Date: May 7, 2006

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AUBG Commencement Speaker 2006

Born on 5 May 1966 in Kherson, Ukraine.

Ph.D. in History.

He graduated in history from the Moscow State University with outstanding results in 1989. In 1994, he defended his Doctor’s thesis “The System of Career Development of State Dignitaries in Russia and Its Transformation in the Second Half of the 19th Century”.

Sergei Stanishev specialized in international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science, 1999-2000; also specialized at the Moscow School for Political Studies.

Journalist in 1994-1995 with many articles treating foreign policy issues, published in Bulgarian dailies and weeklies and in the foreign press.

Appointed senior expert at the Foreign Policy and International Activities Department with the Bulgarian Socialist Party’s Supreme Council, 1995. Appointed head of the Department, 1996.

Elected member of the Supreme Council and of the Executive Bureau of the BSP’s Supreme Council as secretary in charge of international activities, 2000.

Elected by the 19th Multi-seat Constituency of Rousse to represent it at the 39th National Assembly, June 2001 parliamentary elections.

Chairman of the BSP Supreme Council, elected at the second session of the 44th Congress of the Bulgarian Socialist Party on 15 December 2001. In December 2001, the Coalition for Bulgaria Parliamentary Group elected him its leader.

Re-elected Chairman of BSP by the 45th BSP Congress, June 2002.

Member of the PES (Party of European Socialists) Presidency since 2002. Under his chairmanship the BSP became a full member of the Socialist International in October 2003 and of the Party of European Socialists in May 2005.

Elected by the 2nd Multi-seat Constituency of Bourgas to represent it at the 40th National Assembly, June 2005 parliamentary elections. Chairman of the Coalition for Bulgaria Parliamentary Group till 16 August 2005 when the Bulgarian Parliament elected him Prime Minister.

Fluent in English and Russian; working knowledge of French and Polish.

Excerpts from the short biography included in the commencement program booklet distributed at the ceremony 2006.


Name: The Honorable Martti Ahtisaari
Position: Chairman of Crisis Management Initiative, Finnish NGO
Date: May 8, 2005

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AUBG Commencement Speaker 2005

AUBG Honorary Degree Recipient 2005
Doctor of Humane Letters (honoris causa)

President Martti Ahtisaari, b. 1937, was the President of the Republic of Finland 1994-2000. Before his election as President, Mr Ahtisaari forged a prestigious career as a diplomat, working for both Finland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the United Nations. Between 1965-1972, Mr Ahtisaari held various posts in the Bureau for Technical Co-operation of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and as Ambassador to the United Republic of Tanzania and was also accredited to Zambia, Somalia and Mozambique between 1973-1976. Between 1977-1994 he was Under-Secretary of State in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Under-Secretary General for Administration and Management in the UN, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Namibia, and Secretary of State in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Mr Ahtisaari is founder and chairman of Crisis Management Initiative, a Finnish NGO aiming to enhance the crisis prevention, active crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation capacity of the international community. He also serves in leadership roles in several international institutions and foundations. He is co-chairman of the EastWest Institute and serves as a member of the joint advisors’ group for the Open Society Institute and the Soros Foundation. He chairs the Balkan Youth and Children Foundation and the Global Commission of the International Youth Foundation, as well as the international board of the War-Torn Societies Project.

Other post-presidential assignments have included chairing an independent panel on the security and safety of UN personnel in Iraq and appointments as an independent inspector of the IRA’s arms dumps, as a member of the committee assessing the Austrian government’s human rights record, as a Personal Envoy of the Chairman in Office of the OSCE in Central Asia and as a UN Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa.  Currently he mediates the talks between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) about the future status of the province of Aceh, Indonesia.

Excerpts from the short biography included in the commencement program booklet distributed at the ceremony 2005.


Name: Mr. Misha Glenny
Position: Managing Director of South East Europe Change 2004
Date: May 9, 2004

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AUBG Commencement Speaker 2004

AUBG Honorary Degree Recipient 2004
Doctor of Letters (honoris causa)

Misha Glenny was born in 1958 and educated at Bristol University and Charles University in Prague. His coverage of the fall of Communism in 1989-90 was widely acclaimed, and led to the writing of his first book, The Rebirth of History. During the Yugoslav crisis of the early 1990s he was the Central Europe correspondent for the BBC World Service. In 1993 he won a Sony Award for his coverage of Yugoslavia. The Fall of Yugoslavia was published in 1992 and has been in print ever since. The Balkans, 1804-1999 was published by Granta Books in November 1999.

Misha Glenny is an award-winning journalist and historian who has covered Eastern Europe and the Balkans since the mid-1980s. He has lectured on these subjects at universities throughout the United States and Europe.  Misha Glenny was recently appointed Managing Director of SEE Change 2004, a UK based charity that supports economic and political reforms in South Eastern Europe.

Excerpts from the short biography included in the commencement program booklet distributed at the ceremony 2004.


Name: Dr. Kent R. Hill
Position: Assistant Administrator for Europe and Eurasia, USAID, Washington, DC, USA
Date: May 11, 2003

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AUBG Commencement Speaker 2003

Dr. Kent R. Hill was sworn in on Nov. 6, 2001, as assistant administrator for Europe and Eurasia of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). USAID is the government agency that administers the U.S. economic and humanitarian assistance program worldwide.

As head of the Bureau for Europe and Eurasia (E&E), Hill oversees USAID programs in 29 countries spanning the Balkans to Central Asia, including all countries of the former Soviet Union.

Before coming to USAID, Hill served as president of Eastern Nazarene College in Quincy, Mass., from 1992 to 2001. From 1986 to 1992, he was president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, D.C. He taught European and Russian history at Seattle Pacific University from 1980 to 1986.

A graduate of Northwest Nazarene College in Nampa, Idaho, Hill has a master's degree in Russian studies and a Ph.D. in history from the University of Washington in Seattle. He has published books on Christianity in Russia and the former Soviet Union and more than 50 articles and reviews on subjects such as the Soviet Union and Russia, human rights, religion in communist countries, Russian intellectual history and Marxism.

Hill has been a guest speaker on many college and university campuses and at numerous academic and public policy conferences. He is a noted expert on human rights and international religious freedom issues and has been an active participant in dialogue between Catholics, Evangelical Protestants, Orthodox and other religious groups.

A native of Nampa, Idaho, Hill and his wife, Janice, have two children, Jennifer and Jonathan.

Excerpts from the short biography included in the commencement program booklet distributed at the ceremony 2003.


Ambassador James W. Pardew
Position: US Ambassador to Bulgaria
Date: May 12, 2002

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AUBG Commencement Speaker 2002

President George W. Bush appointed James William Pardew as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Bulgaria and he was subsequently sworn in on April 12, 2002. Ambassador Pardew assumed his previous position as Special Advisor for Southeast Europe in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs in 2001.  He earlier served as Deputy Special Advisor to the President and Secretary of State for Democracy in the Balkans during the conflict in Kosovo and subsequent peace implementation from 1999-2001.  He directed the Military Train and Equip Program for Bosnia from 1996 to 1999, and represented the Secretary of Defense on the US negotiating team that concluded the Dayton Peace Agreement ending the war in Bosnia.  He was appointed to the rank of Ambassador on August 1, 1997.

Ambassador Pardew's military service included tours as Vice Director for Intelligence, J-2, Joint Staff from 1992 to 1994.  He served as Director of Foreign Intelligence and Chief of Current Intelligence, Army General Staff, during the collapse of the Soviet Union from 1988 to 1992.  While on active military service, he served extensively overseas, including two tours in Germany, Turkey, Japan, a combat tour in Vietnam and service in Operation RESTORE HOPE in Somalia.  He is a recipient of the Department of State Distinguished Honor Award, the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Civilian Service, and the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal.  His military decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit (2), Bronze Star (2), and Air Medal.

Ambassador Pardew was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on February 5, 1944.  He attended the US Army War College, and earned a B.S. degree in Journalism at Arkansas State University in 1966, and an M.A. in Political Science at Loyola University of Chicago in 1973.

Ambassador Pardew is married to Mary K. (Hoffman) Pardew.  They have three sons.

Excerpts from the short biography included in the commencement program booklet distributed at the ceremony 2002.


Mr. John Tennant
Position: Deputy Assistant Administrator, USAID, Washington, DC, USA
May 7, 2000

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AUBG Commencement Speaker 2000

AUBG Honorary Degree Recipient
Doctor of Humane Letters (honoris causa)

John Tennant is currently Deputy Assistant Administrator in the Bureau for Europe and Eurasia, responsible for the US Agency for International Development's (USAID) European Programs.  In this current role, Mr. Tennant overseas US technical assistance programs in Central and Eastern Europe, including Bulgaria, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo. 

Mr. Tennant has worked with USAID for 30 years, serving overseas in Vietnam, Pakistan, Thailand, Philippines, Jamaica and, most recently, 1994 - 1998, as Director for USAID's mission in Sofia. Under his leadership, USAID was able to provide critical assistance to Bulgaria during the economic crisis in 1997 and its subsequent stabilization.  In October 1998, President Stoyanov recognized Mr. Tennant's dedication and leadership during this critical juncture by awarding him the Order of the Madara Horseman, 2nd Class. 

Prior to joining USAID, Mr. Tennant worked with the US Department of Treasury and as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines.

Mr. Tennant earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of Maryland, and completed graduate studies in Economics at George Washington University in Washington, DC.

Excerpts from the short biography included in the commencement program booklet distributed at the ceremony 2000.


Name: Dr. Robert Woodbury (1938-2009)
Position: Chair of the Board of Directors of AUBG
Date: May 10, 1999

Name: Ambassador Avis T. Bohlen
Position: US Ambassador to Bulgaria
Date: May 10, 1998

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AUBG Commencement Speaker 1998

Ambassador Bohlen is a career Foreign Service officer. She assumed her responsibilities as Ambassador to Bulgaria in August 1996 following 10 months of Bulgarian language study.  Prior to that, she served as deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Paris from 1991 to 1995.  She has been in the Foreign Service since 1977.

Her assignments have included one year with the U.S. Delegation to Negotiations on Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions in Vienna, as well as tours in the Office of Soviet Affairs and the Office of European Regional and Security Affairs in the Bureau of European and Canadian Affairs.  She served as Deputy Political Counselor, U.S. Embassy, Paris;  Member, Policy Planning Staff, Department of State; Executive Director, U.S. Delegation to Nuclear and Space Talks, Geneva;  Director, office of West European Affairs, Bureau of European Regional and Security Affairs.  She was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs from 1989 to 1991.

Ambassador Bohlen has a B.A. (1961) from Radcliffe College, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and an M.A. (1963) from Columbia University, New York, New York.  Her foreign languages include French, Russian, Italian, German and Bulgarian.

She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the International Institute of Strategic Studies.

In 1994, Ambassador Bohlen received the Presidential Service Award and was a runner-up for Baker Wilkins Award for deputy Chiefs of Mission.

Ambassador Bohlen is married to David Calleo, Dean Acheson Professor of International Relations, Johns Hopkins University  School of Advanced International Studies.

Excerpts from the short biography included in the commencement program booklet distributed at the ceremony 1998.


Ambassador John K. Menzies
Position: Former US Ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina
Date: May 4, 1997

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AUBG Commencement Speaker 1997

AUBG Honorary Degree Recipient 1997
Doctor of Humane Letters (honoris causa)

John K. Menzies was the United States Ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina from October 1995 until December 1996. After receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree in German and History from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville in 1971, he earned a graduate degree in German at the same university in 1974. In November 1978 John K. Menzies became Assistant to the Dean of the Graduate Division at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In 1981 he earned his doctorate in German from U.C. Berkeley.

Ambassador Menzies started his diplomatic career in 1982 when, after studying Hungarian for one year, he served successively as Junior Officer Trainee, Cultural Affairs Officer and as Deputy Public Affairs Officer in Budapest, Hungary. In July 1985 he became Deputy Public Affairs Officer in East Berlin and remained in this position until July 1987. In July 1988, after one year of Bulgarian language training, Ambassador Menzies became Public Affairs Officer with the United States Mission in Sofia, Bulgaria, where he stayed until June 1991.

From 1991 until 1993, he served first as Special Assistant for East European Assistance to the Deputy Secretary of State and then as Counselor for Press and Public Affairs with the United States Mission to the United Nations in New York. From December 1993 until October 1994 he served as Acting Deputy Coordinator of East European Assistance.

In October 1994 John K. Menzies became Deputy Chief of Mission in Sarajevo, and after serving as Chief of Mission from April until October 1995, he became the United States Ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina, where he served until December 1996.

Ambassador Menzies holds a Meritorious Honor Award (1988), a Group Superior Honor Award (1991), and the Rivkin Award for “constructive dissent” (1994), all from the American Service Association. In 1991 Ambassador Menzies was awarded the Order of the Madarsky Konek (Second Class) of the Republic of Bulgaria.

The American University in Bulgaria is proud to confer upon Ambassador Menzies the degree Doctor Honoris Causa for his distinguished contributions to Central and Eastern Europe.

Excerpts from the short biography included in the commencement program booklet distributed at the ceremony 1997.


Name: Ms. Flora Lewis (1918-2002)
Position: New York Times Senior Columnist, Author, Member of the Council on Foreign Relations (NY)
Date: May 5, 1996

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FLORA LEWIS (1918-2002)

AUBG Commencement Speaker 1996

News columnist and author Flora Lewis joined the New York Times as chief of the newspaper’s Paris bureau in 1972. She became Foreign Affairs columnist for The Times in June 1980, making her the third Times correspondent to write the column. In 1984 she was given the additional title of European diplomatic correspondent. Since 1990, Miss Lewis has been a senior columnist at The Times, and her column appears twice a week.

Miss Lewis is a native of Los Angeles, where she attended the University of California. After receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1941, she earned a graduate degree at the Columbia School of Journalism. She then joined the New York bureau of The Associated Press and was soon transferred to that agency’s Washington, D.C. bureau.

After covering the Navy and State Department for The Associated Press during World War II, Miss Lewis was assigned to AP’s London bureau. She left in 1946 and for the next several years wrote from Europe for various newspapers and magazines, including Time, The London Observer, The Economist of London, France-Soir of Paris, The New York Times Magazine. In 1956 Miss Lewis joined The Washington Post to cover Eastern Europe, and later London. In 1965 she opened the New York bureau of The Post.

Miss Lewis once wrote a widely syndicated column on U.S. and world affairs, which she started in Paris in 1967. Her column kept her constantly on the move, taking her to Vietnam five times in five years, to the Middle East to cover the Six-day War, and to Chicago and the Miami during the 1968 political conventions.

In December 1985, Miss Lewis received the National Press Club’s 13th Annual Fourth Estate Award for “a lifetime of contributions to American journalism.” Among her other awards are three from Overseas Press Club, one in 1956, 1962, and 1978. She is a winner of the Columbia Journalism School’s 50th Anniversary Award, the Aspen Institute’s Award fro Journalistic Excellence (1977), and the Award fro Distinguished Diplomatic Reporting, from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service (1978).

Miss Lewis holds honorary doctorate degrees from Princeton University, Columbia University, and Darthmouth College. In 1981 the French Government presented her with the Legion of Honor Cross of the Chevalier.

Miss Lewis has published four books, the most recent in 1992 entitled Europe: Road to Unity, which was an update from her 1987 book, Europe: A Tapestry of Nations. Scores of articles by Miss Lewis have appeared in anthologies and magazines, including The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Saturday Review, The Atlantic Monthly, and Life.

Excerpts from the short biography included in the commencement program booklet distributed at the ceremony 1996.


Name: Mr. George Soros
Position: Chairman, Soros Foundation
Date: May 7, 1995

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AUBG Commencement Speaker 1995

International philanthropist George Soros was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1930. He immigrated to England in 1947 and graduated from the London School of Economics in 1952. In 1956, he moved to the United States.

Mr. Soros founded an Open Society Fund in 1979, the Soros Foundation-Hungary in 1984, and the Soros Foundation-Soviet Union in 1987. He now has a network of foundations operating in 24 countries throughout Central and Eastern Europe, as well as South Africa and the United States. These foundations are helping to build the infrastructure and institutions of an open society through the support of a variety of educational, cultural, and economic restructuring activities.

Mr. Soros is also a founder of the Central European University in Budapest, Prague, and Warsaw. Established in 1990, the University offers postgraduate programs in history, economics, political science, art history, and the social sciences, and serves as the centerpiece of Mr. Soros; educational initiatives in Eastern Europe.

Mr. Soros is President of Soros Fund Management and Chief Investment Advisor to Quantum Fund N.V., a $12 billion international investment fund which is generally recognized as having had the best performance record in the world during its 25-year history.

In addition to many articles on the political and economic changes in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, Mr. Soros is the author of The Alchemy of Finance, published by Simon & Schuster in 1987 and republished in May, 1994 by John Wiley and Sons, Opening the Soviet System, published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson in July 1990, and Underwriting Democracy, published by The Free Press in September 1991. Mr. Soros’ forthcoming book, Ideas and Actions, will be published by Wiley and Sons in July, 1995.

Mr. Soros received honorary doctoral degrees from the New York School for Social Research (New York) and the University of Oxford in1980, as well as from the Budapest University of Economics and Yale University in 1991.

Excerpts from the short biography included in the commencement program booklet distributed at the ceremony 1995.

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