Tom Freston, a 1967 graduate of Saint Michael's College, will be the 2012 commencement speaker at ceremonies to be held Monday, May 14, at the liberal arts Catholic college located in Burlington, Vermont. Regarded as a ground-breaking pioneer in television, Freston spearheaded the rise of MTV Networks.
Tom Freston is a principal of Firefly3, an investment and consultancy firm, with focus on the media and entertainment industries. He is former CEO of Viacom, and was for 17 years, chairman and CEO of MTV Networks. He is now chairman of the ONE Campaign, an anti-poverty advocacy group that was started by Bono, leader of U2.
As CEO of MTV, Mr. Freston expanded the company's reach, built an animation studio, produced feature films, and developed large consumer product and digital businesses. He added such shows as Spongebob Square Pants, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, South Park, The Real World, Behind the Music and Rugrats.
Mr. Freston received a Bachelor of Arts from Saint Michael's College and an MBA from New York University. He has received many industry awards and recognitions, including being noted by Time in 2006 as one of the top 100 most influential people in the world. He serves on the boards of the American Museum of Natural History, DreamWorks Animation, and Emerson College. He also serves as a trustee of the Asia Society where he funded a new department focusing on issues in Afghanistan.
At his induction to the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame in May 2011, the speaker said: "Tom Freston helped build MTV Networks from the ground up...spending nearly three decades turning his vision for a TV channel devoted exclusively to music into an empire that literally changed how the world looked at television."
In recent years, Mr. Freston has returned to Afghanistan, where he has helped set up the first private television network in the country. He is also working with Farsi 1, a satellite network beaming shows like 24, Oprah and Korean soap operas to the Farsi-speaking world, 80 percent of whom Freston says are in Iran.