Durham Native Robert Steel Elected Chair of Duke Trustees

Steel is the first Durham native to chair the board since Duke became a university in 1924

Duke University alumnus Robert K. Steel has been elected chair of the Duke University Board of Trustees, effective July 1, school officials announced Saturday.

Steel, the first Durham native to chair the board since Duke became a university in 1924, has served as vice chair since July 2000. He chaired the 19-member presidential search committee whose recommendation led to the board's selection in December 2003 of Richard H. Brodhead as Duke's ninth president.

Steel succeeds Peter M. Nicholas, who has served as board chair since July 2003. First elected as a trustee in 1993, Nicholas will retire from the board on June 30.

"Bob will be a terrific chairman of the board," said Nicholas, the co-founder and chairman of Boston Scientific Corp. "He is well-versed on all the critical issues at Duke, has been a key contributor to all major decisions taken at the executive committee over the past few years and has outstanding relationships with trustees, faculty and administrators. Further, Bob has all his life been professionally associated with a leadership enterprise and knows first-hand what excellence is all about."

Steel retired as vice chairman of Goldman Sachs & Co. in New York City in February 2004 and currently serves as advisory director for the firm. He teaches at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and serves with organizations that include the NationalHumanitiesCenter, The After-School Corp. and the Aspen Institute.

He received his bachelor of arts degree from Duke in 1973, majoring in history and political science, and earned his master's in business administration from the University of Chicago in 1984. He has maintained strong ties with Duke through activities that include chairing the Duke Management Company (DUMAC), the university's investment arm, and serving on the trustees' Academic Affairs Committee and health system board of directors.

Steel and his wife, Gillian, have three daughters and live in Greenwich, Conn. He grew up near Duke's East Campus and attended Durham public schools before enrolling at Duke. His mother, Elizabeth Steel, and late father, Charles Steel III, also attended Duke.

"Duke has grown and achieved in so many ways since I left as a student [and] we need to maintain our commitment to creative excellence in all of the university's activities," he said. "I look forward to working with President Brodhead and his team, and with faculty leaders and the rest of the Duke community to further strengthen Duke's leadership in higher education. I'm very fortunate to follow Pete Nicholas, who has guided the board so ably and, along with his wife Ginny, been so generous personally to the university."

In its election Saturday, Duke's Board of Trustees also selected Karl M. von der Heyden, the former vice chairman of the board of directors of PepsiCo, Inc., as vice chair. Previously, von der Heyden was co-chairman and chief executive officer for RJR Nabisco, and held leadership positions at H.J. Heinz Co., Metallgesellschaft Corp., Pitney Bowes and other firms.

A native of Berlin, Germany, von der Heyden attended the Free University of Berlin.  He graduated from Duke in 1962 and obtained an MBA degree from the WhartonSchool of the University of Pennsylvania in 1964. He and his wife Mary Ellen have two children, one of whom, Ellen von der Heyden Gillespie, is a graduate of Duke.  The von der Heydens live in Greenwich, Conn., and New York City.

Elected to Duke's board in 1995, von der Heyden is a member of the Executive Committee and chairs the Business and Finance Committee. He also serves on several other corporate and philanthropic boards.

The board also elected N. Allison Haltom, a vice president and officer of the university, to continue her service as university secretary.