By Maria Saporta
Agnes Scott College has selected its next president – Leocadia “Lee” I. Zak – who recently served as director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency under President Barack Obama.
Zak will be the ninth president of Agnes Scott, succeeding current President Elizabeth Kiss, who is stepping down at the end of June. Zak will begin her duties on July 1.
Zak’s appointment comes after an eight-month search with the board of trustees looking for a bold and inspiring leader with a commitment to institutional excellence.
The board hopes the new president will build upon the success of SUMMIT, Agnes Scott’s distinctive signature experience focused on global learning and leadership development. With her broad experience in the international arena, proven leadership and management abilities, and history of being an influential change agent, Zak is well suited to advancing the college’s mission of educating students to become global leaders.
“The Presidential Search Committee vetted a number of highly impressive candidates, and the selection process was rigorous,” said Elizabeth Daniel Holder, chair of the Agnes Scott’s Board of Trustees, in a statement..
“Lee Zak stood out as an exceptional and accomplished leader, and the Board of Trustees unanimously concluded that she is the right choice at this stage in Agnes Scott’s transformational journey,” Holder continued.
“We feel she is well positioned to continue the momentum of SUMMIT and to contribute greatly to our growth as a premier liberal arts institution. She will be stepping into the role armed with a solid foundation already built by President Kiss, and there is an immense opportunity for her to make her own mark. We are confident that she will,” Holder concluded.
Zak is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Mount Holyoke College, which recognized her as a Woman of Influence in 2012. She also holds a J.D. degree from Northeastern University School of Law.
Zak comes to Agnes Scott with an extensive background in international economic development and international project finance. In her role as director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, Zak was appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in March 2010, and she served for seven years in that role.
The agency is an independent federal entity that advances economic development and U.S. commercial interests in developing and middle-income countries. She first joined the agency in 2000, and, prior to her appointment as director, she served as general counsel, deputy director and acting director.
Her achievements at the U.S. Trade and Development Agency include leading the Aviation Cooperation Programs in China, India and Brazil; the Energy Cooperation Programs in China and India; and the development of the worldwide Global Procurement Initiative and the India Smart Cities Initiative. She has testified before Congress on behalf of the agency’s programs, accompanied the president on foreign trips and met with heads of state and other senior government officials and business leaders around the world.
“I am extremely excited and honored to be joining Agnes Scott College. Now more than ever there is a need for women’s colleges, and SUMMIT uniquely takes the experience to a new level with its focus on leadership and global learning,” Zak said in a statement. “President Kiss, the faculty, staff and the Board of Trustees should be commended for their vision. I look forward to honoring Agnes Scott College’s distinguished history and traditions and working together to build on its outstanding achievements.”
While in government service, Zak also was involved in the establishment of what has become the Women in Public Service Project, a global program working to improve the representation of women in policy and public leadership positions housed at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
Before joining the public sector, Zak spent 18 years at the Boston and Washington, D.C., offices of the law firm Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky, and Popeo PC, joining as an associate in 1982. At the firm, she practiced in the areas of international and domestic project finance, becoming a partner in 1990.
More recently, Zak has taught International Project Finance as an adjunct faculty member at the Georgetown University Law Center and the Boston University School of Law, including team-teaching with her husband, Kenneth Hansen, a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of the international law firm of Norton Rose Fulbright.
Agnes Scott College is a historic liberal arts women’s college based in DeKalb County. When Kiss steps down in June, she will have served 12 years as president.