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254th Commencement of the University of Pennsylvania Speaker: Jon M Huntsman, Jr, US Ambassador to China Credit: Michael Chien , Michael Chien

Former Republican presidential candidate and 1987 College graduate Jon Huntsman Jr. is returning to Penn’s Board of Trustees.

On June 14 and 15, the Board of Trustees voted to re-elect Huntsman as a University Trustee after his 11-year departure. University Secretary Leslie Kruhly said Huntsman agreed to commit to attending the trustees’ biannual meetings, stating “he would love to rejoin the Board” and “Penn was like family.”

Upon arriving at the Trustees meeting Thursday afternoon, Huntsman joined Penn faculty and NBC Foreign Affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell in a discussion of the 2012 presidential election.

“He reflected on the race as he participated in it and talked about his thoughts going forward — it was terrific to have him,” Kruhly said.

Huntsman served on the board from January 1996 through December 2001, when he stepped down after being named Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, Kruhly said. Huntsman went on to serve as governor of Utah and United States ambassador to China before launching his presidential campaign, which he suspended in January.

Penn President Amy Gutmann was pleased at Huntsman’s return to the board, emphasizing his career in public service. “Jon Huntsman Jr. is a proud Penn alumnus who has been admirably engaged at the highest level of public affairs,” she said. “It is an enormous advantage for Penn to have someone of his stature and intellect on our board.”

During his tenure as a trustee, Huntsman served on the Academic Policy and Honorary Degrees and Awards committees. Kruhly said that while Huntsman will get to decide whether to return to those committees or serve on different ones, the Local, National and Global Engagement committee would be a good fit because it deals with Penn’s global profile.

Huntsman’s experience as an ambassador will be particularly relevant in Penn’s efforts to expand its partnership with China. Since Huntsman has been called on “in front of many different audiences to talk about China and the U.S.-China relationship going forward, we certainly expect to benefit from his knowledge,” Kruhly said.

Huntsman remained involved at Penn after leaving the Board of Trustees, enrolling two of his daughters at the University and serving on the advisory board of the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business. Huntsman also delivered the 2010 Commencement address and has spoken at various Penn schools and centers.

Board of Trustees Chair David Cohen believes Huntsman’s experience as both a Penn trustee and a politician will serve him well going forward.

“In Jon Huntsman Jr., we have the opportunity to welcome back a former trustee who served with distinction and knows Penn and what it takes to be a valuable and successful trustee of the University,” Cohen wrote in an email.

“He obviously could not serve as a trustee while he was serving as the U.S. ambassador to China or while he was running for president, but his experience will be invaluable in bringing a national and global perspective to our board,” he added.

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