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Bryant's Board of Trustees voted unanimously to name D. Ellen Wilson '79 the new Chair beginning in May.
D. Ellen Wilson ’79 named Chair of Bryant University’s Board of Trustees
Jan 16, 2024, by Staff Writer
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Smithfield, RI – Bryant University announced that D. Ellen Wilson ’79 will be the next Chair of the Board of Trustees. Wilson will succeed David Beirne ‘85, who has served as chair since 2020. Under his board leadership, Bryant launched Vision 2030 and has experienced strong growth in enrollment and rising reputation and recognition. 

"Ellen Wilson is the right leader at the right time,” says outgoing board president Beirne. “It has been an honor to serve the Bryant community for over twenty years as a trustee and as Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the past four. We assembled a world-class team to lead Bryant. Together, we set the direction for Bryant with Vision 2030.  We just delivered the two largest classes in our 160-year history and secured a game changing gift from our partners at Fidelity for a dedicated home to grow our College of Business. With Ellen’s strategic leadership at the board level, the future of Bryant University has never been brighter.” 

“Bryant University is fortunate to have strong alumni willing to share their talent with and dedication to the institution. I want to thank Dave for his decades of service to Bryant, including the last four as board chair, which launched Bryant into its next era of unprecedented growth and innovation,” says Bryant University President Ross Gittell, Ph.D. “Bryant will benefit enormously from Ellen Wilson’s strong leadership and unwavering commitment to this University. I look forward to continuing Vision 2030 with Ellen as chair of our board of trustees.” 

Across her prominent career, Wilson worked alongside leaders in the financial services and healthcare sectors. She spent 17 years at Fidelity Investments, helping build the financial services firm into a global brand. At UnitedHealth Group, she was pivotal in growing the company from 100,000 employees to a global juggernaut of 400,000 people with a revenue of $324 billion.

Wilson has advocated for Bryant University and its students for decades and as a board member since 2019. Always engaged with the next generation, Wilson visits campus often, sharing lessons learned from her deep experience in business with students at both formal events and informal gatherings. Along with fellow board members, she helped guide the University through the COVID pandemic, which kept students on campus and engaged in the Bryant community. Her values-based leadership style will bring the Bryant community – its students, faculty, staff, and alumni – together to achieve the ambitious goals within Vision 2030. Wilson’s collaborative leadership approach will be a tactical advantage to bring these bold plans to fruition. 

“President Gittell built an excellent team that’s forward thinking and practical. Vision 2030 is set in place, there’s a defined plan, and the capital campaign has strong momentum,” says Wilson. “One of my strengths is bringing organizations together to move toward common goals. Now is the time for that kind of guidance. David Beirne did a fantastic job and I am privileged to continue to build on his foundation.” 

Wilson is the first woman to hold the position of board chair in the university’s 160-year history. According to the American Association of University Women, gender parity at the board level remains elusive, with women making up only 30% of the board seats. Of that number, only 7% lead boards as chairs or directors, according to Fortune. Wilson’s role at the chair level underscores the university’s strong commitment to an inclusive campus community that is supportive of diverse leaders.

Wilson’s tenure begins in May 2024 at the annual board meeting; Beirne will continue to serve on the board of trustees, which he joined in 2001.

Bryant University

For over 160 years, Bryant University has been at the forefront of delivering an exceptional education that anticipates the future and prepares students to be innovative leaders of character in a changing world. The university delivers a uniquely integrated academic and student life experience with nationally recognized academic programs at the intersection of business, liberal arts, and health and behavioral sciences. 

Located on a 428-acre contemporary campus in Smithfield, R.I., Bryant enrolls approximately 3,800 undergraduate and graduate students from 38 states and 49 countries. Bryant is recognized as a top 1% national leader in student education outcomes and ROI and regularly receives high rankings from U.S. News and World Report, Money, Bloomberg Businessweek, Wall Street Journal, College Factual and Barron’s.  

Vision 2030

The Vision 2030 strategic plan sets an exciting trajectory for Bryant University. Priorities include an ecosystem of academic excellence, vibrant student life, community and belonging, and championing economic mobility. 

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