Ann Margaret Veneman (born June 29, 1949) is currently the Executive Director of UNICEF. She was the first woman to become the United States Secretary of Agriculture. She announced her resignation as Secretary on November 15, 2004, which took effect on January 20, 2005. On January 18, 2005, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced Secretary Veneman's appointment as the fifth Executive Director of UNICEF. The appointment was made effective with the end of the term of former UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy on May 1, 2005.
Veneman was raised on a peach farm in Modesto, California. Her father, John Veneman, was former undersecretary of Health, Education and Welfare and member of the California State Assembly. She earned her bachelor's degree in political science from the University of California, Davis, a Master of Public Policy from the Richard & Rhoda Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. She has also been awarded honorary doctorate degrees from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (2001); Lincoln University (Missouri) (2003);Delaware State University(2004) and Middlebury College (2006) .
Veneman began her legal career as a staff attorney with the General Counsel's office of the Bay Area Rapid Transit District in Oakland, California, in 1976. In 1978, she returned to Modesto, where she served as a Deputy Public Defender. In 1980, she joined the Modesto law firm of Damrell, Damrell and Nelson, where she was an associate and later a partner.