J. Weili Cheng ’77 has been appointed executive director of the Association of Yale Alumni (AYA), effective July 18.
Cheng comes to Yale from The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, a subsidiary of Marriott International, Inc., where she was most recently senior vice president and deputy general counsel responsible for oversight of all legal matters relating to the company’s operations, which include 124 hotel, residential, and club properties in over 30 countries. As a member of The Ritz-Carlton Executive Committee, she also played an active role in shaping the company’s global business strategies and policies across the Americas, Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.
Prior to joining The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company in 2007, Weili served for 10 years as vice president and assistant general counsel for the international lodging operations division of Marriott. She held a number of leadership roles at Marriott, including spearheading the company’s China entry strategy, serving as chair of the company’s casino oversight committee and acting corporate secretary, and participating as a member of various corporate committees relating to diversity and women’s issues. Before her tenure at Marriott, she was a trial attorney and an attorney-adviser at the United States Department of Justice and an attorney in private practice.
Cheng has a long history of service to her alma mater. She graduated from Yale with a B.A. in philosophy in 1977 and was in Pierson College. Shortly after graduating, she became actively involved as a Yale volunteer and has remained deeply involved ever since. She served on the AYA Board of Governors from 1986 to 1996 and as chair from 1992 to 1994 — the youngest and first female graduate of Yale College to hold that position. She has been a board member of the Yale Club of Washington, D.C., including serving as its president. She has also served as chair of the Class of 1977 Class Council, an Alumni Schools Committee volunteer, and a trustee of the Yale Library Associates. Since 1994, she has served on the board of directors of Yale Alumni Publications, Inc., which publishes Yale Alumni Magazine. For her service to Yale, Weili was awarded the Yale Medal in 1997. She and her husband, Brad Dobeck, are also Yale parents; their son, Stephen, graduated from Yale College in 2010.
“We are delighted to have Weili take on the leadership of the Association of Yale Alumni at a time when so many of our alumni are engaging with Yale, and with each other, in new ways,” said President Peter Salovey. “During her 30-year tenure at Marriott International, Weili demonstrated leadership; strategic and organizational skills; strong management and operational expertise; and a spirit of innovation that will stand her in good stead in leading the AYA forward. We are thrilled that she will bring these talents ‘back home’ to Yale.”
Members of the search committee included Michael J. Madison ’83, who served as chair, Alison E. Brody ‘95, Robert K. Hopkins III ’86 MBA, Jimmy C. Lu ‘77, Rahul R. Prasad ’87 Ph.D., Nancy Stratford ’77, Magda T. Vergara ’82, and Joan E. O’Neill, vice president for alumni affairs and development.
Noted Madison, “In a group of extraordinary candidates, Weili stood out. She brings to the AYA both a long record of service to Yale as a volunteer alumni leader and a keen strategic sense honed over decades of senior leadership in a global business setting. She’ll work hard to ensure that all Yale graduates have the opportunity to participate effectively in Yale’s worldwide alumni community. Weili is the right person at the right time for the AYA and for Yale.”
In writing to Yale alumni about Cheng’s new role, Vice President for Development Joan O’Neill also acknowledged AYA Deputy Executive Director Jenny Chavira ’89 for her service as acting executive director during the transition period between Mark Dollhopf’s end of term and Cheng’s appointment. Of Chavira’s contributions to the AYA, Salovey said, “I could not be more grateful for Jenny’s outstanding work as interim director and for all that she brings to the Association of Yale Alumni and to our university community. I look forward to the AYA’s continued flourishing under Weili’s leadership and with the dedicated engagement of Jenny and the entire AYA team.”