February 6, 2004

Meet the Trustees

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Some of them have famous names and are extremely rich. Others are students. Who are the men and women who make up the Board of Trustees? While Ezra Cornell ’70 and many of the people whose names adorn campus buildings are on the board, some of the more intriguing members may be lesser known to the Cornell community. In a small sampling of trustees, one can stumble across the co-founders of Staples and South Beach Beverages, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and even a part owner of the Atlanta Hawks.

Myra Maloney Hart ’62 has been a member of the board since 1999. Currently a professor at Harvard Business School, Hart moved into academia after being an executive at a variety of wholesale and retail ventures. After a few years in the supermarket industry, she co-founded Staples, Inc. in late 1985. Acting as Vice President of Operations, then Executive Vice President of Growth and Development, Hart said she “took responsibility for the directions in which the company would grow.” The company is now valued at nearly $12 billion.

Staples went public in 1989 and Hart returned to Harvard for her PhD. Now holding a full professorship at the school, Hart said she wanted to teach because “I could have some influence on the way the next generation does business.”

Hart, who has participated in Cornell alumni and club events since her graduation, combined her two career passions when she took a position on the Board of Trustees. The professor-entrepreneur is now a member of the Academic Affairs Committee and Development Steering Committee. Hart also participated in the search for the University’s new president.

Chairman and CEO of McGovern Capital LLC, Kevin McGovern ’70 was one of the three co-founders of South Beach Beverages, which was sold to PepsiCo. in 2001 for an estimated $370 million. McGovern’s main enterprise, however, is “helping companies…grow businesses utilizing their intellectual property,” he said. McGovern Capital teaches companies with new technology patents, including water filtration and alpha-hydroxy acid creams used by skincare companies, how to penetrate industries and strategically promote their products.

A member of the Board of Trustees since 2001, McGovern is a member of the Technology Transfer Committee. He is also on the board of the Cornell Research Foundation and the Athletic Task Force. “Cornell is, other than my family and my business, the most important thing in my life,” McGovern said.

Sheryl WuDunn ’81 was invited to join the Board of Trustees in 2002. WuDunn is the anchor and principal writer for “Page One,” a news segment on the Discovery Times Channel that is a joint venture between The New York Times and Discovery Networks. WuDunn has worked on both the news and business sides of The New York Times as a staff correspondent in the Tokyo and Beijing bureaus and later a project director in Strategic Planning. Before joining The New York Times, WuDunn worked at the South China Morning Post, the Miami Herald, The Wall Street Journal, and Reuters. WuDunn and her husband, The Times’ op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof, won the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting for their coverage of China’s Tiananmen Square movement in 1990. WuDunn was the first Asian American to win this honor. She and Kristof have also published two books about current political and economic trends in Asia.

Some children dream of playing for a professional sports team. Steve Belkin ’69 wanted to own a sports team and officially became a part owner of the Atlanta Hawks, the Atlanta Thrashers, and Philips Arena in September 2003. Before acquiring the team, Belkin partnered with Larry Bird in an attempt to buy an NBA franchise in Charlotte.

A member of Cornell’s Board of Trustees since 2000, Belkin is founder and chairman of Trans National Group, a direct marketing and investment company. He founded Affinity Credit Cards and, according to the company website, “pioneered the concept of using direct mail marketing to provide producers and services to the…marketplace.” The official website of the Atlanta Hawks stated that Belkin is “widely respected as a creative, visionary entrepreneur and philanthropist.” Belkin recently received Cornell’s Alumni Volunteerism Award. Although his name will not replace that seen at Philips Arena in Atlanta any time soon, Belkin and his wife did help fund Cornell’s Belkin Squash Courts.

In the midst of these rich and famous are two student-elected trustees, Funa Maduka ’04 and Jackie Koppell ’05. Despite their worldwide reputations and household products, “what [the trustees] do outside…plays little to no role” in their board activities, Koppell said. The student representative also said that even those with the most recognizable names “really are interested in what the students want.”

Hart said she enjoys contributing to the board because it is made up of “people who represent different points of view, different age groups, and different industry perspectives.” From sports to school supplies, the trustees certainly represent just as many fields as are taught here at Cornell.

Archived article by Melissa Korn