New members appointed to University Council

Eight alumni have been appointed by the Yale Corporation as new members of the University Council, an advisory body to the president that is charged with studying and making suggestions on different facets of university life. The group consists of up to 35 members, who serve in three-year terms.

The council’s newest members are David Agard ’75, Scott Bessent ’84, Elisa Spungen Bildner ’75, Jessica Rae Herrera-Flanigan ’92, Laura Kiessling ’89 Ph.D., Neil Shen ’92 M.A., Robert Simonds ’85, and Michael Warren ’90.

David Agard

A member of the faculty of the University of California, San Francisco, David Agard is a professor in the departments of Biochemistry and Biophysics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry, the former chair of the Graduate Group in Biophysics, and former scientific director of the Institute for Bioengineering, Biotechnology, and Quantitative Biomedical Research. His research examines, at an atomic scale, how “machines” of different sizes inside a cell function. He has been an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute since 1986, is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and served on the Protein Society Executive Council. He earned his B.S. in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale in 1975 and his Ph.D. in biological chemistry from the California Institute of Technology.

Scott Bessent

The founder, chairman, and chief investment officer of investment management company Key Square Group, Scott Bessent previously served as chief investment officer of Soros Fund Management. He is a frequent speaker on economic and investment panels, is the subject of a chapter in a book profiling macro investors, Inside the House of Money, and features prominently in Sebastian Mallaby’s history of hedge funds, More Money than God. At Yale, he has served as the treasurer of his class and as a member of the President’s Council on International Activities. He also has taught a number of residential college seminars. Bessent is a trustee of Rockefeller University, on the board of the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and former board member of God’s Love We Deliver, a New York City organization for homebound people with AIDS. He earned his B.A. in political science from Yale in 1984.

Elisa Spungen Bildner

A former attorney, journalist, and entrepreneur, Elisa Spungen Bildner served as CEO of FreshPro, which she sold in 2007. After earning her B.A. from Yale College in 1975, she graduated from Columbia Law School in 1978 and went on to practice law in New York and New Jersey. She was a reporter/editor at The Star-Ledger andtaught journalism at Rutgers and New York University. She co-founded and, with her husband Rob Bildner, is co-chair of the board of trustees of the Foundation for Jewish Camp, a public foundation supporting Jewish summer experiences. She is past president of the international Jewish news agency, JTA, and past chair of the Jewish Funders Network. In 2013, President Obama appointed her to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council. Bildner is on the governing board of the Association of Yale Alumni, the Development Council, the Women’s Health Research at Yale Council, and the board of the Slifka Center for Jewish Life; she is a founding member of YaleWomen and is on its council.

Jessica Rae Herrera-Flanigan

As executive vice president for government and corporate affairs at Univision Communications Inc., Jessica Rae Herrera-Flanigan manages Univision’s Washington, D.C., office and oversees the company’s philanthropic, corporate social responsibility, and community outreach efforts. Prior to that, she was partner at Monument Policy Group, where she worked with clients on a number of issues related to media, technology, and sports, and advised on crisis communications. Herrera-Flanigan also served as the staff director and general counsel for the House Committee on Homeland Security, where she supervised the legislative, policy, and oversight activities of the committee’s staff. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and currently serves on the National Association of Broadcasters Television board, the U.S. Center for Safe Sport board, the Center for Democracy & Technology advisory council, and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy advisory circle. She received her B.A. in American studies from Yale in 1992 and her J.D. from Harvard Law School.

Laura Kiessling

Laura Kiessling is the Steenbock Professor of Chemistry, Laurens Anderson Professor of Biochemistry, and director of the Keck Center for Chemical Genomics at the University of Wisconsin. Her research addresses questions regarding the assembly of cell surface carbohydrates, their biological roles, and how to co-opt or inhibit glycan interactions. These studies have implications for controlling immunity and tolerance and mitigating infectious disease. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a fellow of the American Chemical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a member of the American Academy of Microbiology. She serves on the governing council of the National Academy of Sciences. Kiessling’s honors and awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the J. Willard Gibbs Award, the Harrison-Howe Award, the Yale Wilbur Cross Award, and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. She is the founding editor-in-chief of ACS Chemical Biology. Kiessling received her B.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her Ph.D. in chemistry from Yale in 1989.

Neil Shen

Neil Shen,steward of Sequoia Capital and founding and managing partner of Sequoia Capital China, is also the co-founder of Ctrip, a travel services provider, and Home Inns, a hotel group. He is chair of HONGKONG X-Tech Startup Platform, director of China Entrepreneur Forum, vice chair of the Venture Capital Funds Committee of the Asset Management Association of China, a trustee of the Asia Society, and a trustee of Shanghai Jiao Tong University. He is the president of Future Forum in 2016. The Future Forum is a non-profit organization established in Beijing in 2015 and is made up of scientists and business and government leaders with the aim of promoting the development of science in China, enhance the scientific literacy of Chinese citizens, and making China a leader in scientific innovation. At Yale, he chairs the Yale Center Beijing Advisory Committee and is a member of the Yale Asia Development Council, the School of Management (SOM) board of advisors, and the SOM China board of advisors. He earned his B.S. from Shanghai Jiao Tong University and his M.A. from Yale in 1992.

Robert Simonds

Robert Simonds is chair and CEO of STX Entertainment, which specializes in the development, production, marketing, and distribution of talent-driven films, television, and digital media content. Prior to forming STX Entertainment, Simonds was the chair of the Robert Simonds Company. He has produced more than 30 studio movies, including “The Waterboy” (1998) and “Big Daddy” (1999) with Adam Sandler, “The Pink Panther” (2006) with Steven Martin, and “This Means War” (2012) with Reese Witherspoon and Tom Hardy. He also produced “Happy Gilmore” (1996) and “The Wedding Singer” (1998). Simonds’s movies have generated over $7 billion in worldwide revenue. At Yale, he is a member of the Yale Development Council and a former member of the School of Management board of advisors. He earned his B.A. in philosophy from Yale in 1985.

Michael Warren

As managing principal of Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategic advisory firm, Michael Warren is responsible for overall strategic direction, growth, and management. He is also a member of the Investment Committee of Albright Capital Management. Warren is a trustee of the District of Columbia Retirement Board, where he served two terms as chair and currently serves as vice chair of the Investment Committee. He also serves on the board of trustees of the Commonfund. In 2010 and again in 2012, Warren was appointed by President Obama to serve as a member of the board of directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, where he chairs the Audit Committee. During the first term of the Obama Administration, Warren served as senior advisor in the White House Presidential Personnel Office. He was also a member of the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition as co-lead for the Treasury and Federal Reserve agency review teams. Warren serves on the School of Management’s board of advisors and on the President’s Council for International Activities. He graduated from Yale in 1990 with a B.A. in history, and went on to be a Rhodes Scholar in Balliol College at the University of Oxford.

University Council

The University Council, established in 1947, is unique among Yale’s volunteer leadership advisory groups in that it is not limited to a certain area or activity of the university, or to representation of a particular subset of Yale community members. The council’s broad scope and small size enable the president to call upon the group for advice on the most important strategic questions and opportunities for the university at any given moment in time. Learn more about the University Council, including a complete list of its membership.

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