Mary Bitterman’s guiding principle is “Go for broke,�? the motto of the highly decorated Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team in World War II. "You've got somebody who's worked her tail off for eight years and has the respect and affection of every board member," KQED Board Chairman, Jerome Falk had said of her when she left to become president and chief executive officer of the James Irvine Foundation. She will be remembered by many as the president and CEO who pulled KQED, one of the oldest public broadcasting centers in the United States, out of a financial tailspin.

Bitterman is currently president of The Bernard Osher Foundation which seeks to improve quality of life for residents primarily of Northern California and the State of Maine through post-secondary student scholarships and arts and humanities grants. The Foundation has endowed centers in integrative medicine at Harvard University, the University of California, San Francisco, and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. In addition, the Foundation supports a growing national network of lifelong learning institutes for older adults located at seventy-three colleges and universities from Maine to Hawaii.

The James Irvine Foundation, where she served after her KQED stint, is an independent grant making foundation serving Californians. She has also served as executive director of the Hawaii Public Broadcasting Authority, director of the Voice of America, director of the Hawaii State Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, and director of the East-West Center’s Institute of Culture and Communication.

Dr. Bitterman is a director (and board chair) of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), The Bernard Osher Foundation, Bank of Hawaii, Barclays Global Investors, Santa Clara University, the Commonwealth Club of California, and the Bay Area Economic Forum. She is also an advisory council member of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and Pacific Forum/CSIS.

Bitterman has also been vice president of TIDE 2000, an international telecommunications development consortium. She has produced several documentaries for public television and has written on telecommunications development and the role of media in developing societies. She is an honorary member of the National Presswomen’s Federation and a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration. Dr. Bitterman received her B.A. from Santa Clara University and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Modern European History from Bryn Mawr College. She holds honorary doctorates from Dominican University of California and Santa Clara University.

A fourth – generation Californian, Bitterman lists her keys to good leadership as “Larger world view, accountability, respect for colleagues and customers.�?

Resources Used

Suggested Reading

  • Public Broadcasting and the Public Interest

edited by Michael P McCauley, Eric E Peterson, B Lee Artz, Dee Dee Halleck

  • Voice of America: A History by Alan L Heil
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.