Trustees elect first black, female chair to lead board next year

The Board of Trustees elected Grace Speights, the current secretary of the board, to serve a three-year term as its next chair at a meeting Friday.

Speights, who earned her Juris Doctor from the University in 1982, will be the first African American and the first woman to hold the position of board chair. Speights, who was elected by a unanimous voice vote following her nomination in February, will assume the position, effective June 1, after Nelson Carbonell, the current chair, serves out the rest of his term.

“I’m going to do my best,” Speights said. “That’s all I can do – to do my best and give it my all. I’m really looking forward to serving as the next chair of this board and working with each and every one of you.”

Speights is a partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, an international law firm with about 2,000 lawyers worldwide. She manages more than 250 lawyers, represents clients in litigation brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and counsels on best practices for corporate diversity initiatives, according to the firm’s website.

Speights said Carbonell will be a “hard act to follow” and she plans to use his help during her term.

“Although I am overwhelmed, I feel pretty good because you all heard Nelson say yesterday that he’s only a phone call away,” Speights said.

University President Thomas LeBlanc said Speights has “great” judgment and is a “very well-respected” professional and attorney. LeBlanc said he thinks they will have a “great” working relationship.

“I’ve been working with her on a transition plan to make sure she hits the ground running,” LeBlanc said. “And obviously she’s very smart and a very quick study, so I think we’re going to be in great hands.”

The board unanimously re-elected Ellen Zane to an additional term as vice chair of the board and selected Avram Tucker to serve as the board’s secretary to fill the vacancy left by Speights’ election as chair. Zane and Tucker will serve a one-year term beginning on June 1.

Tucker, who earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from GW in 1977, currently serves as a trustee and is the CEO and co-founder of TM Financial Forensics, a consulting firm that specializes in economic and engineering analyses.

Tucker donated $2 million to the University in 2014, and the board subsequently named the baseball field at Barcroft Park in his honor. Tucker has also served on the business school’s advisory council.

The board also unanimously appointed Donna Hill Staton, who earned a Juris Doctor from the University in 1982, to serve a four-year term as a trustee beginning June 1. Staton is a co-founder and partner at Decision Point Strategy Group, LLC, a consulting firm.

Parth Kotak contributed reporting.

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