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Fellows Forum

Dr. Margaret McKenna

Dr. Margaret McKenna

(Former) President, Suffolk University Boston : Boston, MA

Margaret A. McKenna, former president at Suffolk University in Boston, is a lawyer and educator, and a leading expert in educational opportunity and philanthropy. McKenna is President Emeritus and Professor of Leadership at Lesley University, and led Lesley from a small regional college to a nationally recognized university with one of the leading teacher training programs in the country. The Student Center and a Chair in Leadership and Social Change were named to recognize her contributions during her twenty-two years as president. She is also a Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Institute of Politics.

From 2007 to 2011, McKenna served as president of the Walmart Foundation, the largest corporate entity of its kind in the United States. In 2010, the Foundation provided over $900 million dollars in cash and in-kind donations to nonprofit organizations. McKenna developed the strategic priorities of the foundation and coordinated its international, national and local programs. The Walmart Foundation has since become a leader in fighting hunger and a major participant in educational opportunity in the United States.

McKenna held a previous appointment at Radcliff College, Harvard University, where she served as director of the Bunting Institute and Vice President. Prior to Radcliff, she has a distinguished career in federal government as a civil rights lawyer with the Department of Justice, Deputy Under-Secretary of Education and Deputy White House Counsel, under President Jimmy Carter.

The recipient of nine Honorary Degrees, McKenna has received awards from a variety of national and regional organizations including Meals on Wheels, Feeding America, Women’s Equity Action League, Big Sister, Council of Independent Colleges, the International Tallories Network of Universities, City Year, and the Boston Chamber of Commerce.

The author of numerous articles, McKenna has spoken at national and international meetings on issues of leadership, social justice, educational opportunity and the role and impact of philanthropy.

McKenna serves on a number of boards: Dominion Resources; America’s Promise; Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Boston Chamber of Commerce. She has served previously on Stride Rite; Best Company; Bay Bank; United States Administrative Council; American Council on Education, among others. She led Education transition teams for President Clinton and for the Mayor of Boston and has served on national and state commissions and task forces on judicial appointments, early childhood policy, hunger relief, workforce programs, and social philanthropy.