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O’Leary visits Motlow

Posted on Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 6:50 pm

Former Fisk University president Hazel O'LearyIn recognition of Women’s History Month, Motlow College will host a rare opportunity to hear a living history legend.

Dr. Hazel R. O’Leary, former United States Secretary of Energy and current President of Fisk University, will speak in Powers Auditorium of Eoff Hall at the Moore County campus, Monday, March 26 at 11 a.m.

Dr. O’Leary has led a successful career in education, private business and government. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Fisk University in 1959 with a bachelor’s degree in history and economics before earning a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) degree in 1966 from Rutgers University Law School. She has served as president of Fisk since her appointment in August of 2004.

Earlier this year she announced her retirement as the university’s president. Robert W. Norton, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, said, “President O’Leary stands as one of the most accomplished American women of her generation. She served at Fisk during a difficult time in its history. For eight years she has brought the needed vision, leadership and stability to enhance Fisk’s position as a highly ranked liberal arts university.”

Before joining the historically black university in Nashville, O’Leary served as U.S. Secretary of Energy during President Bill Clinton’s first administration. She was the first female and first African American to do so. She was widely regarded as one of the best of the president’s cabinet appointments, mostly because she had worked in the public and private sectors.

Prior to the Clinton appointment she worked under the administrations of Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. Under President Ford, O’Leary joined the Federal Energy Administration (FEA) as director of the Office of Consumer Affairs/Special Impact—managing a number of the antipoverty programs initiated during the Great Society years of the 1960s.


In the Carter administration she served as general counsel for the Community Services Administration; as assistant administrator for conservation and environment with the FEA. Later she was named chief of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Economic Regulatory Administration.

Dr. O’Leary’s private sector work includes serving as assistant county prosecutor in Essex County, New Jersey, subsequently appointed assistant attorney general in that state. She joined the accounting firm of Coopers & Lybrand as one of the first African American partners. O’Leary was named executive vice president of Northern States Power Company, one of the largest gas and electric utilities in the Midwest, overseeing the company’s legal and personnel departments, environmental affairs, public relations, and lobbying.

Prior to her Fisk appointment she served as CEO of Blaylock & Partners LP, a New York–based full-service investment firm whose major client focus is on energy, transportation, telecommunications and technology. She currently serves on the boards of Nashville Alliance for Public Education, ITC Holdings, Inc. and Nashville Business Community for the Arts.

According to Brenda Cannon, director of student and campus relations at Motlow, “Dr. Hazel O’Leary is a champion of many causes, a trail blazer, pioneer, and humanitarian who seeks the best for all. Her visit will be a ‘moment in history’ at this institution.”