Debo P. Adegbile ’91 has been elected to serve a three-year term as the next chair of Conn’s Board of Trustees. He is the first African-American in College history to serve as chair.
“I have served alongside two superb Connecticut College Board Chairs—DeFred (Fritz) G. Folts III ’82 and Pamela D. Zilly ’75—and, inspired by their examples, and those of the entire College community, welcome the opportunity to continue to serve the College I love,” Adegbile said.
“I came to Connecticut College from the Bronx, New York, to pursue what the late Professor [Arthur] Ferrari would have explained as better ‘life chances,’ and I draw upon that life-changing experience daily. Our College is both inspirational and aspirational, and we summoned both over the last several months. Now we look to the future with optimism and resolve to continue to provide the transformative educational environment that starts in New London but reaches far beyond.”
President Katherine Bergeron said that Adegbile enters this role at a dynamic time, as the College advances its commitment to full participation; as our communities reckon with racial justice; and as the nation rises from the scourge of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With his fine legal mind, his disciplinary expertise in civil rights, and his deep understanding of the role of higher education in creating access and in shaping the nation’s future leaders, Debo is uniquely positioned to carry forward our ambitious mission of the liberal arts in action,” Bergeron said.
Adegbile is a partner at the international law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr in the New York office. He chairs the firm’s antidiscrimination practice. His practice focuses on a broad range of matters at the intersection of law, business and government policy. Adegbile has significant experience in commercial, government-facing and appellate litigation, as well as in investigations and strategic counseling in high-stakes matters. He currently serves as a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, appointed by President Obama in 2016 to a six-year term.
Prior to joining WilmerHale LLP, Adegbile was senior counsel to United States Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, where he advised the senator on legislative, constitutional and nomination matters. Adegbile previously served as the acting president and director-counsel and director of litigation of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., the nation’s leading civil rights legal organization. At LDF, his work involved a broad range of complex civil and criminal cases before trial and appellate courts. He twice defended the constitutionality of core provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in oral argument before the United States Supreme Court.
At Connecticut College, Adegbile majored in government, minored in African Studies, and was awarded the Anna Lord Strauss Medal at Commencement in recognition of his outstanding work for the College and community. He is also a recipient of the Agnes Berkeley Leahy award for outstanding alumni service. A national expert on civil rights law, he earned a J.D. from New York University School of Law in 1994, where he now serves as a trustee. He also serves as the vice chair of the board of trustees of the Vera Institute of Justice.
Adegbile succeeds DeFred (Fritz) G. Folts III ’82, who has served on the board since 2012 and as chair since 2018. Under his leadership, the College saw the opening of the new Hale Center for Career Development; the expansion of the College’s signature Academic Resource Center; the adoption of a comprehensive Action Plan for Equity and Inclusion; and the launch of The Agnes Gund ’60 Dialogue Project. He was awarded the College Medal for his outstanding service to the College during a global pandemic.