F&M Stories

Five Facts About Jason Cone ’99, Commencement Speaker

Exactly 25 years ago, Franklin & Marshall alum Jason Cone ’99 left campus with a degree in biology and government and a pocketful of uncertainty.

As it turns out, uncertainty was the key to possibility. 

Cone, chief public policy officer of Robin Hood, is the featured speaker at F&M’s Commencement Ceremony Saturday, May 11.

“I sat where the graduates are going to sit. I didn't have a job lined up, didn't have graduate school plans, really did not know what I was going to do,” Cone said. 

He now drives public policy engagement at New York City’s largest anti-poverty philanthropic organization. 

“Uncertainty is not a barrier to lifelong success and purpose,” Cone said. 

“The most important thing is that you continue. You continue to listen, to question, to make space to heal. The world you’ve experienced these past few years has been very hard, very isolating. Just being there to receive that degree is in itself a reflection of your strength and your adversity,” he advises the Class of 2024.  

Early in Cone’s career, a job layoff prompted him to apply to Doctors Without Borders – the start of a 15-year tenure that saw him rise to U.S. executive director, providing vital support to humanitarian medical programs across the globe. 

Cone is an internationally recognized speaker and published writer on humanitarian issues, international humanitarian law, global health, crisis communications, nonprofit ethics and global migration. Read more about Cone’s accomplishments on the F&M Commencement website

"Uncertainty is not a barrier to lifelong success and purpose."

Jason Cone ’99

Jason Cone: Five Fast Facts

1. He (almost) met his wife on campus.

Cone met Christie Del Rey-Cone ’99 at Lancaster’s Amtrak station during their second semester on campus. If not for that fateful train ride, they might not have crossed paths. 

“We ran in very different circles,” Cone said. Both were involved with Greek life (Pi Lambda Phi fraternity and Chi Omega sorority), but she gravitated toward theater and he spent his free time on the rugby field. 

The couple wed in 2001 and have two children. They celebrate their 25th class reunion this year.

2. He co-founded a Ukrainian aid network with actor Liev Schreiber. 

Cone and Schreiber joined forces to create BlueCheck Ukraine, an organization focused on identifying, vetting and fast-tracking funding to local Ukrainian organizations.

Schreiber is of Ukrainian heritage, as is Cone. They were connected through colleagues (and happened to live in the same Tribeca neighborhood at one point). 

“My great-grandmother immigrated from Ukraine to the United States after her mother was killed by a group of Kazakh raiders who came into her village,” Cone said. “When the war in Ukraine started, I couldn't help but feel a very strong pull to what was happening there.”

3. His career was nearly spent underwater. 

“I fell in love with the ocean through scuba diving with my parents,” Cone said. In fact, he spent a summer before college interning at the Smithsonian Museum’s marine ecosystems laboratory. 

“I had every intention of getting into marine biology,” he said. That intent almost took Cone to college in California, but he chose F&M for a broader liberal arts experience. 

“The government piece came in when I started realizing how important policy was in terms of environmental protection,” Cone said.

4. He lived overseas in early childhood.

Cone was born in Paris, where his mother was employed by IBM. He then spent several years of elementary school in Tokyo. 

“We spent a lot of time traveling around Asia, which was very formative for me in terms of understanding the different privilege that we had, both as expats and – comparatively speaking – as Americans in that part of the world,” Cone said. 

5. His parents met at F&M, too.

As fate would have it, Cone’s parents also met on campus. Jeffrey and Karen Cone, both Class of 1974, celebrate their 50th class reunion this year. Karen Cone was a member of the College’s second graduating class of women. 

The upcoming weekend carries special weight for this year’s Commencement speaker and his family. “I haven't been on the campus with both my parents since I graduated,” Cone said.

Jason Cone '99

Alumni Documentary: Jason Cone ’99

In 2017, we chatted with Jason Cone ’99 about his career as U.S. executive director at Doctors Without Borders. 

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