Hilarie Bass named chair of the University of Miami Board of Trustees

Hilarie Bass, who had served as vice chair since 2014, becomes only the second woman to lead the board. Photo: Mike Montero/University of Miami

By UM News

Hilarie Bass, who had served as vice chair since 2014, becomes only the second woman to lead the board. Photo: Mike Montero/University of Miami

Hilarie Bass named chair of the University of Miami Board of Trustees

By UM News
David Epstein and William Morrison are installed as vice chairs of the BOT; Leah Colucci elected student trustee.

Hilarie Bass, a longtime University of Miami trustee and prominent attorney who is the founder and president of an organization dedicated to advancing gender parity across industries, assumed the role of chair of UM’s Board of Trustees on Friday, beginning a two-year term for the body responsible for governing one of the top private research institutions in the nation. 

Bass, who had served as vice chair since 2014, succeeds Richard D. Fain, chairman and chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., and becomes only the second woman to lead the board. She assumed her new post on Friday during a BOT meeting at which Miami Business School alumnus David L. Epstein and former Northern Trust Corporation vice chairman William L. Morrison were named new vice chairs, and Leah Colucci was named student trustee. 

A 1981 graduate of UM’s School of Law, Bass is the former co-president of the international law firm Greenberg Traurig, where she worked for 37 years. She is the immediate past-president of the American Bar Association and served on the presidential search committee that named Julio Frenk UM’s sixth president. 

“Hilarie Bass’ unwavering commitment to the University of Miami and the way she has lived out our values will be a tremendous asset in a board chair. Her passion for educating the next generation of leaders will help guide the way we provide experiences that prepare ’Canes to address the complex challenges our society faces,” said Frenk. 

“I am also grateful to outgoing Chair Richard Fain for his partnership and for the thoughtful way he has engaged with the administration and the faculty for the benefit of our students, the University, and the community,” said Frenk. 

At Greenberg Traurig, Bass served as its co-president for six years, as a member of the firm’s Executive Committee for more than 20 years, and as the global chair of its 600-member litigation department for eight years. She also founded and chaired the firm’s Women’s Initiative for many years. 

During her distinguished legal career, she has worked on a number of landmark cases, including widely recognized pro bono work on behalf of two foster children that led to the elimination of Florida’s 20-year-old ban on gay adoption.

As ABA president, she traveled to more than 25 countries, discovering that people around the world appreciate the devotion of American lawyers to upholding the rule of law. 

Bass is a passionate supporter of the University. In 2014, she made a $1 million gift to the School of Law, which renamed its popular courtyard in her honor. She has also supported the School of Education and Human Development, the College of Arts and Sciences, and UM Athletics. 

“I’m humbled to be given the responsibility of being chair of the University of Miami’s Board of Trustees,” said Bass. “The University has been on a very exciting upward trajectory for a number of years, and I am very much looking forward to continuing to assist in helping it achieve its goals.” 

At the beginning of this year, she created the Bass Institute for Diversity and Inclusion, which works with the senior management of companies, law firms, and institutions around the world to identify and create effective strategies to retain women throughout their careers and elevate them to senior management roles. 

“I think most people realize how critical it is to have diverse thoughts at the table any time an important decision is made,” said Bass. “My decision to create the Bass Institute was a result of my continued frustration that in many areas of business and certainly in law, while there has been a lot of focus on hiring diverse people, the numbers of women and diverse attorneys who are successfully getting to the highest levels of management remain pitifully low.” 

Bass credits her time at the School of Law as being the “precursor for everything I’ve achieved in my career, and so I have tremendous appreciation of both the law school and the broader University community.” 

Noting that she was a scholarship student while at UM, Bass said she is “keenly aware of how important it is that we create opportunities for students who otherwise would not have the chance to attend our great University.” 

Vice Chairs: 

David L. Epstein, B.B.A. ’95, has served on the University of Miami Board of Trustees since 2004 and is currently a member of the Investments Committee and chair of the Intercollegiate Athletics Visiting Committee. He also serves on the visiting committee for the School of Communication and is an ex-officio advisory board member of Entrepreneurship Programs at the Miami Business School. Epstein, who is managing partner of Jade Suites and CEO of Infinite Access, served on the Presidential Search Committee to select UM’s new president in 2015. The Kosar/Epstein Faculty Office Wing at the Miami Business School is named in his honor. 

William L. Morrison is the former vice chairman of Northern Trust Corporation, a leading provider of wealth management, asset servicing, asset management, and banking to corporations, institutions, families and individuals. Morrison also held a number of other positions at Northern Trust, including president, chief operating officer, executive vice president, and chief financial officer. He serves on and is a past chair of the UM Board of Trustees Investments Committee. He received his undergraduate degree from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. 

Student Trustee: 

Leah Colucci, B.S. ’17, is a second-year medical student at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine who is also seeking a master’s degree in genomic medicine. As a Foote Fellow, Colucci graduated cum laude from UM in 2017, earning a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience and Marine Science with a minor in chemistry. She has traveled to multiple countries to represent the University as its global ambassador.