Northwestern University: Northwestern names seven to the Board of Trustees

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Northwestern University has named seven distinguished individuals to its Board of Trustees.

This year’s appointees are Wendy Abrams, social activist, environmentalist and founder of Cool Globes Inc.; José E. Almeida, CEO of Baxter International Inc.; Frank Cohen, global head of Core+Real Estate at Blackstone and chairman and CEO of Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust; Robert M. Hayward, partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP; Emily Heisley Stoeckel, chairman of the Board of The Heico Companies LLC and Heico Holding Inc.; Kristin McDonnell, managing partner and founder of Menlo Group; and Joey Wat, CEO of Yum China Holdings Inc.

Meet the newest board members

Wendy Abrams is the founder and CEO of the Eleven Eleven Foundation, devoted to sustainability, education, healthcare and social justice. In 2019, Abrams was honored by RFK Human Rights as a Ripple of Hope Award Laureate for her activism. Abrams is a founding partner of The Earthshot Prize, in partnership with the Royal Foundation. Abrams has used public art as a platform for activism; she curated the “Invisible Words” exhibition to amplify the voices of the homeless, and in 2006, Abrams established Cool Globes, Inc., a nonprofit promoting climate change awareness. Abrams serves on the board of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. As a representative of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Leadership Council, Abrams has participated in delegations to Mexico, Haiti, Dominican Republic and South Africa. Abrams graduated from Brown University and received her MBA from the Kellogg School of Management.


José (Joe) E. Almeida is chairman, president and CEO of Baxter International Inc. For more than a decade, Northwestern and Baxter have partnered on multidisciplinary research and innovation efforts, working on projects to address the world’s most pressing healthcare challenges. Prior to joining Baxter, Almeida was chairman, president and CEO of Covidien. He previously held a range of senior leadership roles at Covidien and its predecessor organization, Tyco Healthcare, including president, Medical Devices, and president, International. He has also held leadership positions at Wilson Greatbatch Technologies, American Home Products’ Acufex Microsurgical division, and Johnson & Johnson’s Professional Products division. Almeida, a Brazilian native, graduated with a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from Instituto Mauá de Tecnologia.


Frank Cohen is the global head of Core+Real Estate at Blackstone. He is also the chairman and CEO of Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust. Since joining Blackstone in 1996, Cohen has been involved in over $100 billion in real estate transactions. He has been involved with many of the firm’s notable investments, including Equity Office, CarrAmerica Realty, Trizec and IndCor Properties. Additionally, Cohen serves as a director of Tricon Residential Inc. as a trustee of the Urban Land Institute, on the NAREIT Advisory Board of Governors and as a director for several Blackstone portfolio companies. Cohen received a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern, where he graduated from the honors program in Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences (MMSS) with a double major in political science.


Robert (Bob) M. Hayward is a partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP and helps lead the team that has been awarded “Capital Markets Practice Group of the Year” by Law 360. He represents publicly traded corporations and private equity funds and their portfolio companies in all aspects of securities, mergers and acquisitions, SEC compliance/disclosure, corporate governance, stockholder activism and crisis management. He has extensive experience representing companies in IPOs, high-yield and investment-grade debt offerings, private financings, joint ventures, and public and private mergers and acquisitions transactions. Hayward is a fourth-generation Northwestern alum. His immediate family all graduated from Northwestern, and his oldest son is a current student in the School of Communication (Class of 2024).


Emily Heisley Stoeckel is the chairman of the Board of The Heico Companies LLC and Heico Holding Inc. Heisley Stoeckel has devoted more than 25 years to the growth and development of Heico’s diverse portfolio of companies. Heico is privately held and headquartered in Chicago. Heico owns approximately 50 businesses worldwide within a diverse set of industries such as steel and metal processing, commercial and industrial construction, manufactured specialty equipment and engineered components. Heisley Stoeckel is actively involved in investment origination, mergers and acquisitions and portfolio management. She earned a bachelor of arts degree from Northwestern and an MBA from the University of Chicago. Heisley Stoeckel is married with four children (including Weinberg College alums Olivia ’20 and Britta ’22).

Kristin McDonnell is a tech executive and investor who is at the forefront of advancements in Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), mobile and digital. She is the managing partner and founder of Menlo Group, a venture capital investment firm, drawing on more than 25 years of Silicon Valley-based entrepreneurial and financing experience. McDonnell has worked with a variety of companies, from Silicon Valley tech start-ups to Fortune 100 corporations. In addition to serving on Northwestern’s Board of Trustees, she serves on the Northwestern Alumni Association Board of Directors. She has been recognized as Harvard Business School’s Top 100 Distinguished Alumnae of Northern California and Mobile Entertainment’s Top 50 Female Execs in Mobile Content. McDonnell has an MBA from Harvard Business School and a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern in industrial engineering, with a focus on computer science.

Joey Wat is CEO of Yum China Holdings Inc., a Fortune 500 Company, and has been a member of Yum China’s Board of Directors since July 2017. Yum China separated from Yum! Brands Inc. and became an independently listed company on the New York Stock Exchange on November 1, 2016. Wat served as the president and COO of Yum China from 2017-2018, and as CEO of KFC China from 2015–2017. Before joining YUM China Division in 2014, Wat served in both management and strategy positions at AS Watson of Hutchison Group in the U.K. from 2004. Her last position at Watson was as managing director of Watson U.K. Before joining Watson, Wat spent seven years in management consulting, including with McKinsey & Company in Hong Kong from 2000 to 2003. Wat holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management and a bachelor’s degree from Hong Kong University. Wat was included in the Forbes World’s Most Powerful Women list for both 2020 and 2021 and Fortune’s Top 50 Most Powerful Women in International Business from 2018 to 2021.

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