Some fraction of Yale’s more than 150,000 living alumni will vote over the next two months to place a fellow graduate on the Yale Corporation, the University’s highest governing body.
This year’s ballot, to be released today, announces three candidates for the six-year Alumni Fellow term: Nelson Cunningham ’80, Neal Keny-Guyer SOM ’82 and Sharon Ruwart ’85. The winner of the election will succeed Jeffrey Koplan ’66, a leader in the field of public health who is currently vice president for global health at Emory University, on the Corporation.
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Unlike Koplan, who holds an M.D. from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, none of the three candidates is a medical doctor. Koplan himself replaced Ben Carson ’78, another prominent doctor, on the Corporation in 2003.
But in a recent interview, University Secretary Linda Lorimer said the Corporation does not have designated slots for fellows with experience in specific fields.
“It’s very keenly respected that the fellows are there to serve as stewards of the whole University,” Lorimer said. “So you don’t have a graduate of the Law School thinking, ‘I’m there to champion the Law School and make sure the Law School gets its due.’”
The three candidates have each led distinguished careers, Melanie Ginter ’78 GRD ’81 said, who chaired the seven-person Association of Yale Alumni committee that picked the three candidates for this year’s ballot based on nominations from other alumni.
All three candidates are white; the 16-person Corporation has one African-American fellow, five female fellows and two Indian fellows (including Indra Nooyi SOM ’80, who is both Indian and a woman). University President Richard Levin said in a telephone interview Wednesday night that adding women and minorities to the Corporation remains a priority, and that there have been minority candidates on the ballot in previous years and certainly in the years to come.
Cunningham is a managing partner at McLarty Associates, an international strategic advisory firm in Washington. He was formerly an advisor to President Bill Clinton LAW ’73 and Senator John Kerry ’66. (John Negroponte ’60, a former ambassador who will begin teaching at Yale next year, also holds a position at McLarty Associates.)
Keny-Guyer is the Chief Executive Officer of Mercy Corps, an aid group with more than 3,700 employees stationed in over 40 countries around the globe. He serves on the Board of Advisers of the Yale School of Management.
Ruwart is managing director of the Beijing office of APCO Worldwide, a global communications consulting firm. She has worked for a business magazine in China and has held positions as a marketer in the United States and in China.
Almost all Yale alumni are eligible to vote in the election, though only about one in four typically cast ballots. Yale College alumni must have graduated at least five years before the election to receive ballots, per a stipulation in the University’s Charter. As a result, the Yale College Class of 2003 will vote for the first time this year.
In a recent interview, Lorimer called the percentage of alums who choose to vote “depressingly small.” But Yale’s turnout, consistently between 20 and 25 percent of eligible alumni, is about on par with similar elections at Yale’s peer schools, Associate Secretary Patricia Zandy said.
Voting for the Alumni Fellow has gotten considerably easier — and greener — in recent years, since Yale began allowing alumni to vote online. Yale has reliable e-mail addresses for 88,000 graduates, who will receive an e-mail message inviting them to vote; remaining alumni will be contacted by mail.
Graduates have until May 24, the day before Commencement, to cast their ballots. There are six Alumni Fellows on the Corporation, in addition to the 10 successor fellows who choose their own replacements.