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Better Life Chances

Carrying Conn’s ambitious mission forward

In July, when Debo P. Adegbile ’91 assumed the role of chair of Connecticut College’s Board of Trustees, he breached a boundary that has existed since Conn’s founding in 1911: He is the first African American to serve in the role. 

“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,” Adegbile said.

“Our College is both inspirational and aspirational, and we summoned both over the past 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.”

Adegbile is a partner at the international law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr in the New York office, where he chairs the firm’s anti-discrimination practice. He also 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, 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 juris doctor degree 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.

“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,” President Katherine Bergeron said.

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