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By Rachel Mann
University News
April 18, 2012      

Richard Parsons Delivered King Lecture on Leadership

Of the many lectures that occur on campus, few come with the air of a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This was the case when Richard D. Parsons, a former long-time member of the Howard University Board of Trustees and past chairman of Time Warner and Citigroup, delivered the Gwendolyn S. and Colbert I. King lecture at Howard University in Founders Library on April 3.

The candid 30-minute talk provided insights on the realities of the economy, politics, and leadership. Parsons outlined the latest trends and strategies in the U.S. economy, public policy, and the state of the national debt crisis. He also provided invaluable advice for career development and financial competence.

“The only investment that you are almost certain to get a return from is education,” said Parsons, one of his many words of wisdom that evening.

During the lecture, Parsons explored leadership development and past and present theories of leadership. Students were engaged and asked many questions on the skills and traits associated with great leaders.

Gwendolyn King (B.A. ‘62) shared her hopes that students who attended the lecture and others in the series will use Parsons as an example of leadership.

“They have learned the lessons here, not only from Parsons, but others who have come and shared their vision, who they are, and what leadership means to them,” she said. “No other university has that.”

Richard D. Parsons

The goal is to bring students and real world leaders together, allowing students to learn and benefit from all different  perspectives.

“We have rich resources of African Americans who would love to give back to places like Howard University,” said Colbert King (B.A. ’61). 

Parsons began his career as legal counsel to New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller and was later named managing partner of the New York law firm Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler. He served as chief operating officer of the Dime Bank, one of the largest U.S. thrift institutions. Parsons later joined Time Warner as president and rose to chief executive in 2002; he was named chairman in 2003 and remained until 2008. He has served on a number of boards and commissions, including the boards of Howard University, the Museum of Modern Art, Citigroup and Estée Lauder.

Recently, Parsons has also advised President Barack Obama on economic issues. In March 2008, Parsons was appointed the first holder of the Gwendolyn S. and Colbert I. King Endowed Chair in Public Policy at Howard University.

Gwendolyn Stewart King graduated in 1962 with degrees in French and Education. She went on to a distinguished career including serving as commissioner of the Social Security Administration and as director of Monsanto Company, Marsh & McLennan Companies and Lockheed Martin Corporation, whose charitable awards program made the gift to Howard possible.  Colbert King, who graduated in 1961 with a bachelor’s in government, has had a similarly distinguished career, including 16 years as a columnist at The Washington Post. In 2003, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for what the committee called his “against the grain columns that speak to people in power with ferocity and wisdom.”

In 2007, Kings’ provided a $1 million donation to the University to create the Gwendolyn S. and Colbert I. King Endowed Chair in Public Policy. The Kings, who are both Howard graduates, inaugurated the chair to reflect their years in public service and the media.

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