When Gina Adams, SPA/BS ‘80, accepted the AU Black Alumni Alliance’s Distinguished Ebony Eagles of Excellence Award last month at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco in DC, she did so with a sizable cheering section.
Dotting the room in support of Adams, senior vice president for government affairs at the FedEx Corporation, were 18 fellow members of the AU Board of Trustees.
“I think that demonstrates our commitment to one another and the support we give one another,” she says.
In May, Marc Duber, Kogod/BSBA ‘81, and Adams took on their roles as board chair and vice chair, respectively, with optimism. They hail from different sectors—Duber, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Bernstein Companies, has spent the last 40 years in real estate, while Adams’s background is in government affairs—but they share a love for AU and a sense of pride in the institution.
“I’m very excited to be working with Gina and with the entire board of trustees,” says Duber, who, like Adams, joined the board in 2007. “I think we’re on a great trajectory, and I think with [President Sylvia Burwell’s] leadership, we’re poised to do exceptional things."
’Never Would Have Guessed’
Duber’s path to AU began at the age of 12, when, on a trip to DC, his family visited his older sister’s best friend on campus. His mother, Frances, looked at him during the trip and said, “I want you to go to this school.”
“My mother passed away a year later,” Duber says. “I never applied anywhere else and I never looked at another school. I knew I wanted to come to Washington and AU.”
What the Cleveland native didn’t know was that AU would give him three important things: a segue to a permanent home in the Washington area; a chance to meet his wife, Nancy, CAS/BGS ’82; and the keys to a successful career. In 1979, Duber was introduced to a young trustee, Stuart Bernstein. An internship with the real estate executive blossomed into a 40-year business partnership.
Adams, a native Washingtonian and a graduate of Ballou High School in Southeast, applied to AU at the urging of her high school counselor. It proved sound advice: Adams was awarded the prestigious Frederick Douglass Scholarship. “It was nice because I didn’t have to worry about traveling back and forth to school, which would have been challenging for my family circumstances,” she says.
After earning a law degree at Howard and a master’s in international and comparative law at Georgetown, Adams spent nine years at the US Department of Transportation before joining FedEx in 1992.
As their careers took off, both Adams and Duber were invited to sit on numerous boards. But the idea of one day joining AU's board likely would have come as a surprise to both in the late ’70s.
“When I was at American University a thousand years ago, I never would have guessed or even considered that I would be in the position on the board that I’m in now,” Adams says. “I think it can be a good story for our students.”
An Important Agenda
As board leaders, Duber and Adams know they and their colleagues will continue to discuss universal issues in higher education—including affordability, diversity, and inclusion—much like they did during their September retreat.
“I think it’s no secret that students are concerned about the value of their education,” Adams says. “We’re quite aware of our responsibilities in that regard and that’s on our mind for every meeting, every call.”
Duber says the next two years will be critical, as the board works with AU leadership to advance the five-year strategic plan, supports fundraising efforts, and helps the university find its niche in the online learning and continuing education spaces.
Just as AU has made a difference in the lives of Duber and Adams, the board is committed to ensuring students of all backgrounds and areas of study find value in their education, and experience an AU that is committed to celebrating diversity and fostering lives of purpose.
“For the entire board, not just me as an African American woman, we want everybody to understand that they have a place at this university,” Adams says. “We’re intentional about that.”