Robert K. Steel '73 has been elected chair of Duke's board of trustees. The first Durham native to chair the board since Duke became a university in 1924, he has been vice chair since July 2000 and led the nineteen-member presidential search committee whose recommendation led to the board's selection of Richard H. Brodhead as Duke's president.
Steel succeeds Peter M. Nicholas '64, who has served as board chair since July 2003. First elected as a trustee in 1993, Nicholas retired from the board on June 30.
"Bob will be a terrific chairman of the board," says Nicholas, the co-founder and chair of Boston Scientific Corporation. "He is well-versed on all the critical issues at Duke, has been a key contributor to all major decisions taken at the executive committee over the past few years, and has outstanding relationships with trustees, faculty, and administrators. Further, Bob has all his life been professionally associated with a leadership enterprise and knows firsthand what excellence is all about."
Steel, who retired as vice chairman of the Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., in February 2004, now serves as advisory director for the firm. He teaches at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and serves with organizations that include the National Humanities Center, The After-School Corporation, and the Aspen Institute.
The son of two Duke alumni, Steel was born in Durham's Watts Hospital and grew up in a neighborhood near Duke's East Campus. His father, the late Charles L. Steel III '42, served on the city council, and his mother, Elizabeth Deaton Steel '43, remains active in the Durham community. After high school, Steel enrolled at Duke, whose academic rigor he says he initially found daunting. But by junior year he was thriving, and he ended up majoring in history and political science.
Steel joined Goldman Sachs and, within a decade, was overseeing its European equities operation. Along the way, he earned an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago. He worked in the firm's London office for several years, then settled in Connecticut and rose to become the firm's vice chair. Steel and his wife, Gillian, have three daughters.
He has maintained strong ties with Duke over the years through activities that include chairing the Duke Management Company, the university's investment arm, and serving on the trustees' Academic Affairs Committee and the health system's board of directors.