Recorded on 07/16/2020

Reimagining Boardroom Leadership in a Time of Turbulence

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Recorded July 16, 2020.

As we planned for our post-COVID world, leaders across the country began evaluations of the lessons we learned from this experience and how we might adjust the way we build and manage boards as a result. Hear from Hillary Sale, Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center and Professor at McDonough School of Business, as we explored how the pandemic climate affected board thinking. Learn from seasoned board members Susan Crown, Chairman & Founder of the Susan Crown Exchange and Chairman & CEO of Owl Creek Partners; Don Thompson, former CEO of McDonald’s; and Laura Alber, CEO of Williams Sonoma how to lead and meaningfully contribute to your board in a post-COVID world.

About Don Thompson

Don Thompson is the Founder and CEO of Cleveland Avenue and the former President and CEO of McDonald’s Corporation. Retiring in 2015 after a 25-year career with the Golden Arches, Thompson and his wife, Liz, formed Cleveland Avenue, LLC and the Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education (The CAFE). Bringing together global restaurant expertise, a passion for consumer innovation, and a deep respect for entrepreneurs, Thompson and the Cleveland Avenue team are investing in and accelerating the growth of emerging restaurant, food and beverage brands. Constantly giving back, Thompson is a member of numerous civic and community organizations throughout the city of Chicago. He is a member of the Executive Leadership Council, the Commercial and Economic Clubs of Chicago, Business Council, World Business Chicago and the Arthur M. Brazier Foundation. He serves as a Trustee on the boards of the Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education, Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Purdue University. Thompson also serves on the boards of The Northern Trust Corporation, Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited, Beyond Meat and as an Advisory Board member of DocuSign, Inc. Thompson previously served as a Director on the Exelon Board from 2006-2012 and the McDonald’s Corporation Board from 2011-2015. Thompson received a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University and an Honorary Doctorate degree in Science from Excelsior College.

About Laura Alber

A driving force in the growth of Williams-Sonoma, Inc., Laura Alber has served as the company’s President and Chief Executive Officer, and as a member of the Board of Directors since 2010. In her tenure, she has held various leadership roles, executing effective growth strategies, strengthening brand recognition and bolstering profits for the company’s portfolio of multi-channel brands—Williams Sonoma, Williams Sonoma Home, Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, PBteen, West Elm, Mark & Graham, and Rejuvenation. She also serves on the Board of Trustees at the University of Pennsylvania, and on the Board of Directors of Fitbit, Inc. Laura received a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania.

About Susan Crown

Susan Crown is a philanthropist and business executive with a strategic, results-oriented approach. She is Chairman and Founder of the Susan Crown Exchange (SCE), Chairman and CEO of Owl Creek Partners, and currently serves as the Chairman of Rush University Medical Center and The Rush Health System. Unlike most foundations, SCE uses an approach that goes beyond traditional grant-making; it fosters partnerships and collaborations to create social change. SCE’s mission is to help people acquire skills needed to succeed and thrive in a rapidly changing, highly connected world. SCE is focused on two program areas: digital learning and social and emotional learning. SCE is a leader in promoting social and emotional skills. In 2016, SCE published “Preparing Youth to Thrive: Promising Practices in Social and Emotional Learning,” the first field guide for organizations aspiring to foster social and emotional growth in young people. The content was collected from experts of exemplary programs across the nation – and it is the first best practices field guide of its kind (which can be downloaded at no charge from In the digital learning arena, SCE partnered with Common Sense Media to develop the rubric for a learning ratings system. SCE and Common Sense Media have rated more than 3,500 digital learning products. The system informs parents, educators, and others about the educational value of a specific digital product and what style learner might benefit most from its use. Owl Creek Partners is a private equity company with focused investments in real estate, securities, and consumer products. Rush is an academic health system whose mission is to improve the health of the people and the diverse communities it serves through the integration of outstanding patient care, education, and research and community partnerships. The Rush system comprises Rush University Medical Center, Rush University, Rush Copley Medical Center and Rush Oak Park Hospital, as well as numerous outpatient care facilities. Susan led a $1 billion effort to transform the medical center campus, including the development of Chicago’s first gold level LEED-certified hospital which in 2014 won the World Architecture Prize for best designed health care facility. For nearly three decades, Susan Crown dedicated time and talent to social causes and the business world. As Partner of Henry Crown & Co, she helped manage businesses as diverse as oil and gas, defense, banking, cellular technology, and real estate. As Chairman of the Crown Family Philanthropies, she professionalized an ad hoc family process and spearheaded numerous initiatives including the celebrated Crown Fountain in Millennium Park and the Covenant Awards for leaders in Jewish education. She was the first woman board member of Illinois Tool Works (ITW) – a multi-faceted manufacturing and engineering business with a market cap in excess of $46B. She’s also a board member of The Northern Trust Corporation and a former board member of Baxter International. She’s a former Fellow of Yale Corporation and co-chaired the Yale Tomorrow Campaign. She’s a recently retired director of CARE USA and, in 2011, co-chaired its National Conference on Global Poverty, which led to legislative reforms. She currently serves on the Board of Trustees of The Brookings Institution. Susan Crown graduated with honors with a B.A. from Yale University, earned an M.A. from New York University, and attended the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. She lives with her husband, William Kunkler, in Chicago, IL. They have two children.


Don Thompson

Don Thompson

Founder & CEO of Cleveland Avenue, LLC and Former President & CEO of McDonald's Corporation
Laura Alber

Laura Alber

CEO, President & Director of Williams-Sonoma, Inc. and Director of Fibit, Inc.
Susan Crown

Susan Crown

Chairman & CEO of Owl Creek Partners and Chairman of Rush University Medical Center & The Rush Health System

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