For the second straight season, the Syracuse University football team has qualified for a bowl game, the first time the Orange have secured back-to-back postseason appearances since the 2012 and 2013 seasons. After closing out the regular season with a…
Longtime Higher Education Leader Appointed Senior Vice President and University Secretary to the Board of Trustees
Mary George Opperman, a longtime higher education professional with a deep background in human resources, diversity and inclusion, policy development, compliance and project management, has been appointed the next senior vice president and University secretary to the Board of Trustees. Opperman’s appointment, which was approved by the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, begins on Jan. 2, 2023. She succeeds Lisa Dolak, who after seven years of service to the Board, made the decision to return to her faculty post at the College of Law.
“Mary brings a breadth of experience and vision that will strengthen our shared governance process and enhance the Board’s engagement with the University community,” says Board Chair Kathy Walters ’73. “Mary has an impressive track record of developing solutions to many of the challenges facing higher education, dealing with highly sensitive issues and building an inclusive culture. She will be an extraordinary asset to our board office.”
Opperman comes to Syracuse University after over 20 years at Cornell University, where she most recently served as vice president and chief human resources officer. At Cornell, her portfolio included oversight of the Division of Human Resources, the Office of Inclusion and Workforce Diversity, Title IX compliance and the Center for Regional Economic Advancement. She also oversaw development of Cornell’s innovative Center for Regional Economic Advancement and collaborated with Ithaca College and Tompkins Cortland Community College to found Rev: Ithaca Startup Works, a New York State-supported new business incubator in downtown Ithaca. Prior to her time at Cornell, Opperman spent several years at Harvard University in employee and staff relations, development and training.
“Syracuse University is fortunate to have found someone of Mary’s stature to lead our board office,” says Chancellor Kent Syverud. “She has worked closely with higher education leadership teams and boards to ensure alignment of purpose and improvement of performance. Mary has extensive experience in bringing together diverse stakeholders to advance our strategic priorities in inclusive and collaborative ways.”
As senior vice president and University secretary, Opperman will oversee trustee relations, support the overall work of the Board and manage the Office of the Board of Trustees. Along with the team in the Board Office, Opperman will coordinate and facilitate the activities of the Board and its various committees to ensure the effective and efficient operation of the University’s system of governance. She will work closely with the Board Chair, the Chancellor, senior administration and committee chairs of the Board, to provide counsel and guidance on strategy, policy and process.
“As someone who watches, studies and lives in the higher education landscape, I am very excited to be joining Syracuse University at a time when, by all accounts, the University is thriving,” says Opperman. “I am eager to work with the Board of Trustees and the leadership team to advance the strategic vision for innovation and growth that will serve generations of students and the region. And I look forward to supporting the work that is pivotal to building trust in the governance process, which ultimately impacts the entire campus community and beyond.”
Opperman spent several years serving as a trustee of Ithaca College, chairing the Governance and Compensation/Assessment Committee and serving on the Audit Committee. She has also served on the boards of Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes, Tompkins County Area Development and the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council, and currently serves on the boards of the Legacy Foundation of Tompkins County and The Sciencenter. In March 2015, Opperman was selected by the editors of Human Resource Executive magazine as one of the 15 most influential women leaders in human resources and in 2021 by N2Growth and Stanford Business School as a top CHRO in the country.
Opperman has deep ties to Syracuse and Central New York. Originally from Clinton, New York, she earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from SUNY Oneonta and her master’s degree in organizational behavior from Cornell University. Her husband, Kip, is a Syracuse University alumnus, having earned a master’s degree in counseling at the School of Education. Together, the two lived in Syracuse while he pursued his degree. They have two adult children, two grandchildren and two more on the way.
“We are so excited to be returning to the Syracuse University community,” says Opperman. “The City of Syracuse and Central New York have evolved so much over the years and with the transformation ahead, I am proud to have the opportunity to serve a community that gave my husband and me such a strong foundation for personal and professional success.”
With Opperman’s arrival, Guilherme Costa, who has been serving as interim University secretary, will resume his role as senior associate vice president and deputy University secretary. Walters extended her gratitude to Costa for his interim leadership of the Board Office.
“We are grateful to Guilherme for his service and thoughtful leadership during this interim period,” says Walters. “We look forward to his continued contributions as we transition to new leadership.”