Global activist, lawyer, and President and CEO of Direct Relief International Thomas E. Tighe LL .D.’03 has dedicated his career to serving the common good. Since 2000, he has led Direct Relief International, a nonprofit humanitarian medical organization established in Santa Barbara, Calif., in 1948. Funded entirely with private support, Direct Relief International provides medical material assistance to locally run health programs around the world and in the U.S. Since Tighe’s arrival, Direct Relief has made cash grants of more than $3 million and furnished more than $1 billion of essential medicines, equipment and supplies to support health services for low-income people in 88 developing countries and all 50 U.S. states. Direct Relief International has been named one of America’s Best 100 Charities by Worth magazine, is one of only two U.S. charities rated by Forbes magazine as 100 percent efficient, and has been ranked by the Chronicle of Philanthropy as California’s largest international nonprofit organization based on private support.
A visiting professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara’s graduate program in Global and International Studies, Tighe’s public service is extensive. From 1995 to 2000, Tighe served as Chief of Staff and Chief Operating Officer of the Peace Corps, overseeing day-to-day operations of the agency’s worldwide programs and a resurgent growth of the agency to a 27-year high. From 1993 to 1995, he was Associate General Counsel of the Peace Corps, negotiating bilateral agreements to initiate Peace Corps programs in South Africa and China.
Prior to his work with the Peace Corps, Tighe served as Associate Counsel on the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, handling collateral duties related to foreign aid and the Peace Corps, in addition to conducting oversight and developing legislation for veterans’ mental-health care, special disability programs, drug and alcohol treatment, and services for homeless veterans.
A 1982 graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, Tighe received a J.D. in 1985 from the University of California, Hastings College of Law and an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Hobart and William Smith in May 2003. He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer Teacher in rural Thailand from 1986 to 1988. He was selected for the Aspen Institute’s 2003 class of Henry Crown Fellows, is a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy, and is a former member of the Board of Directors of InterAction. In 2006, he was named Executive of the Year by the South Coast Business and Technology Forum.