Come July, the Yale Corporation will have a new alumni fellow within its ranks.
Gina Raimondo LAW ’98 and Gina Boswell SOM ’89 are the only two candidates in an election for the open alumni fellow seat on the Corporation. Last week, Raimondo, the state treasurer of Rhode Island and a candidate for governor, and Boswell, a corporate executive at Unilever, were announced as candidates to fill the seat of Peter Dervan GRD ’72. Dervan, whose term as an alumni fellow finishes this June, was named a successor trustee last week.
The Corporation is composed of 10 successor trustees appointed by the Corporation and six alumni fellows elected by the alumni body. All serve six-year terms.
The two candidates come from dramatically different backgrounds, and the election has the potential to slightly alter the balance of professions represented on the Corporation. If elected, Raimondo would become the only elected public official on the Corporation. Boswell, meanwhile, would be the ninth corporate figure on the University’s governing body.
Boswell was born in New Haven, where her extended family is notable for owning Pepe’s Pizzeria. Before coming to the Yale School of Management, Boswell attended Boston University, receiving a degree in business administration. Since then, she has worked at corporate giants Estee Lauder, the Ford Motor Company, Avon and Unilever, where she is currently responsible for brands such as Dove and Vaseline.
“Having been born and raised in New Haven, I have known all my life the special magic of the Yale community,” Boswell said. “When I attended [SOM], it was like coming home for me. I’d like to serve as an alumni fellow to contribute to building the modern Yale community and its education of the future.”
Raimondo, meanwhile, was born in Smithfield, R.I. and came to Yale by way of Harvard and a Rhodes scholarship at the University of Oxford. Following her time at the Law School, Raimondo clerked for a U.S. District Judge in New York before founding a venture capital firm.
In Nov. 2010, she was elected the general treasurer of the state of Rhode Island. She announced her candidacy for governor in January.
Boswell and Raimondo are both members of a number of charitable boards. Boswell currently serves on the University Council, a 34-member group that advises the University president.
The Office of the University Secretary emailed alumni with a link to an online voting system last week. Alumni can vote through May 18.
On the voting website, the candidates did not provide platforms, but instead simply presented their biographies.
Alumni interviewed expressed little interest in the election. Of nine contacted, none had voted yet, and only two said they planned on voting. None had decided which candidate to support.
Many alumni have chosen to leave the email unopened.
“I tend to not open emails from the University because usually they’re asking for money,” said Michael Stevens ’61 DIV ’64.
Of those interviewed who voted in previous elections for alumni fellow seats on the Corporation, none said they had a particular method of choosing between candidates.
Most said they simply look at the candidates’ resumes, what organizations they are involved in outside of work and what contributions they have made to the University as alumni.
“It’s just basically been an ad hoc determination based on the specific credentials and experience of the different candidates,” Mark Olinksy ’78 said.
Alumni expressed mixed opinions on whether they would like to see a smaller contingent of corporate leaders on the Corporation.
“Diversity is a very good idea,” said William Frederick ’63, a professor at Ohio University. “Part of the problem with people from corporations it seems is they think of the bottom line and the bottom line isn’t what we should always keep first in our minds as far as the university is concerned. The university isn’t a corporation and education shouldn’t be corporatized.”
Cynthia Tsai SPH ’07 expressed a similar sentiment, saying that she thinks a range of perspectives on the Corporation would be beneficial.
Other alumni, though, had little opinion on the matter. Mark Baran ’78, for instance, said he did not regard the predominance of corporate figures on the Corporation as problematic. Other alumni agreed.
“I don’t consider that something that either by itself qualifies or disqualifies,” Olinsky said.
Boswell said values that have served her well in business — notably community, relationships and diversity — would also serve her well on the Yale Corporation.
Any Yale College alumni of the class of 2008 or older, along with any alumni of Yale’s graduate and professional schools who has received their degree, are eligible to vote in the election.