New university Board members have backgrounds in biology and finance

by AMELIA KAHANEY

The university’s Board of Trustees recently elected two new members: Robert K. Steel, chief executive officer of Perella Weinberg Partners, and Joan A. Steitz, Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale University and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. Mr. Steel and Dr. Steitz were elected at the June 3 Board meeting. With their elections, the university has 44 voting trustees.

Robert K. Steel and Joan A. Steitz.

Robert K. Steel (left) and Joan A. Steitz.

Prior to joining Perella Weinberg Partners, Mr. Steel was New York City’s deputy mayor for economic development, where he was responsible for the Michael R. Bloomberg administration’s five borough economic development strategy and job creation efforts, and oversaw several city agencies. A key initiative of Mayor Bloomberg’s administration was to encourage and grow the technology sector of New York City’s economy. Mr. Steel led the applied sciences effort, which established the Cornell–Technion campus on Roosevelt Island and the New York University Center for Urban Science and Progress initiative in Brooklyn.

“It is an honor to be joining Rockefeller University’s Board of Trustees. This university is world renowned for its research and study of biological and biomedical problems and has made enormous contributions to improving the understanding of life for the benefit of all humanity,” says Mr. Steel. “I am proud to support this ongoing mission.”

As chief executive officer of Wachovia in 2008, Mr. Steel oversaw the sale of the bank to Wells Fargo & Co. and served on the Wells Fargo board of directors until 2010. From 2006 to 2008, he served as undersecretary for domestic finance at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. During his tenure at the Treasury, he revived the president’s working group to respond to the global economic crisis of 2008. He also managed the department’s Blueprint for Modernized Regulatory Structure, which recommended several of the reforms since pursued by the Obama administration.

Mr. Steel also spent nearly 30 years at Goldman Sachs, rising to become head of the global equities division, vice chairman of the firm, and a member of its management committee. A graduate of Duke University and the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, Mr. Steel is chairman of the Aspen Institute’s board of trustees and has served as chairman of Duke’s board of trustees, senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and on many other governmental, nonprofit, and corporate boards.

An internationally recognized pioneer in the study of RNA, Dr. Steitz is best known for discovering and defining the function of small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs), cellular complexes that play a key role in the splicing of pre-messenger RNA, the earliest product of DNA transcription. Dr. Steitz’s research has implications for the improved diagnosis and treatment of lupus, an autoimmune disease that develops when patients make antibodies against their own DNA, snRNPs, or ribosomes.

“The current funding crisis poses real challenges, especially in the face of such remarkable progress in the application of basic science to medicine,” Dr. Steitz says. “It is a pleasure and a privilege to serve on Rockefeller’s Board of Trustees to help it maintain and increase its forefront status as a premier academic and research institution in the sciences.”

Dr. Steitz earned a B.S. in chemistry from Antioch College and a Ph.D. from Harvard University. She was the sole woman in a class of 10 to begin graduate studies in biochemistry and molecular biology at Harvard, and the first female graduate student to work under James Watson’s guidance. She has been at Yale since 1970, where her laboratory has been dedicated to studying RNA structure and function.

A foreign member of The Royal Society, Dr. Steitz is also a member of the National Academies of Sciences and Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Science, and the American Philosophical Society. Her many other honors include the National Medal of Science, the Gairdner Foundation International Award, the Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award, the Rosalind E. Franklin Award for Women in Science, and the Albany Medical Center Prize. In April 2015, Dr. Steitz was honored with the Connecticut Medal of Science.

Dr. Steitz has numerous ties to The Rockefeller University. A recipient of the University’s Pearl Meister Greengard Prize, Dr. Steitz also received an honorary degree from Rockefeller in 2012, one of many she has been awarded throughout her career. Since 2007 she has served on Rockefeller’s Committee on Scientific Affairs, a committee of the Board of Trustees that considers academic appointments and promotions, among other duties.