Robert K. Steel Elected Chairman of Aspen Institute Board of Trustees

November 13, 2008  • Institute Contributor

Contact: James Spiegelman
Vice President for Communications
The Aspen Institute
Tel. 202-736-3849


Robert K. Steel Elected Chairman
of Aspen Institute Board of Trustees
William E. Mayer Concludes Eight-Year Tenure as Chairman

Washington, DC, November 13, 2008––The Aspen Institute Board of Trustees proudly announces the return of Robert K. Steel as its chairman. Steel, a member of the Institute’s Board of Trustees and of its Executive Committee, resumes the role after holding it briefly in 2006, when his appointment as Under Secretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance forced him to postpone his service. He replaces William E. Mayer, who finishes his third term as the Institute’s chairman, first serving in this capacity in 2000.  

“We are delighted to have Bob Steel assume this important role,” said outgoing chairman Bill Mayer. “He has a clear understanding of the mission of the Institute and a proven track record of strong leadership. The Institute will be in good hands with Bob Steel at its helm.” 

“I am honored by this important opportunity,” said Steel. “I look forward to working with Institute President and CEO Walter Isaacson and the Board of Trustees to continue to build on the good work and forward momentum that has characterized the Institute under Bill Mayer’s direction.”

Mayer has led the Aspen Institute as its chairman during an especially dynamic and productive time in the organization’s near six-decade history. Over the course of his tenure, the Institute has grown programmatically, increased its donor base exponentially, and reinvigorated its reputation as a convening power for leaders of all kinds. In particular, Mayer is credited with bringing Walter Isaacson to the organization and together they have expanded the scope of the Institute’s work into such diverse areas as health and bioscience, homeland security, and the promotion of economic stability in the Middle East. The Institute has also revitalized its more than 50-year-old seminars program and seen substantial growth in its young leaders fellowships across the globe. During these years, the Institute has also greatly increased its public profile, in large part through ambitious public events such as a four-day convening on Tibetan culture; public symposia on the environment and health; and the weeklong Aspen Ideas Festival, an event drawing more than 2,000 people to the Institute’s Aspen Meadows campus. Both the Institute’s Aspen Meadows and Wye River campuses were upgraded under Mayer’s watch, including the opening of the state-of-the-art, LEED-certified Doerr-Hosier Center in Aspen in early 2007. 

Said Mayer, “It has been a great privilege for me to have served this organization for the past eight years. My partnership with Walter Isaacson and the rest of the Board has been one of the highlights of my career. Together we have achieved some wonderful things, and I know Bob Steel is up to the challenge of continuing on this path.” 

“I have been extremely fortunate to have had such a wonderful partner in Bill Mayer,” said Walter Isaacson, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute. “The Aspen Institute has thrived these past years because of his guidance and good judgment. I am eager to work with Bob Steel to carry the traditions of this great organization forward into the future.” 

Formerly the Under Secretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance, Steel served as a key advisor to Secretary Hank M. Paulson, Jr., and guided the department’s initial response to this year’s financial crisis. One of his most notable accomplishments was his role in helping to engineer JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s purchase of Bear Stearns. On July 9, 2008, Steel stepped down as Under Secretary to become CEO and president of Wachovia Corporation. Before being appointed Under Secretary, Steel served as vice chairman of Goldman Sachs and as a senior fellow at the Center for Business and Government at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Steel graduated from Duke University with a BA in History and Political Science in 1973. He has been a trustee of the Institute since 2004. 

The Aspen Institute mission is twofold: to foster values-based leadership, encouraging individuals to reflect on the ideals and ideas that define a good society, and to provide a neutral and balanced venue for discussing and acting on critical issues. The Aspen Institute does this primarily in four ways: seminars, young-leader fellowships around the globe, policy programs and public conferences and events. The Institute is based in Washington, DC, Aspen, Colorado, and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and has an international network of partners. For more information, visit

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