eNews April 09, 2015

A Giving Profession

The Jackson Laboratory

As a teen growing up in Connecticut, Kathleen Corbet assumed she would pursue a career in one of "the giving professions," just as her father, an educator, and her mother, a nurse, had done.

As college approached, she began eyeing a career in social work.

"But my father would have nothing of it," Corbet recalls. "You have to go into business," he insisted.

What profoundly good advice that would turn out to be, for herself and her family, and later for The Jackson Laboratory and other philanthropic causes she would support.

Corbet ended up studying marketing and computer science at Boston College and then earning a master's degree in finance at New York University. She parlayed that business education into a globe-trotting career in finance, culminating with her appointment – at the relatively young age of 44 – as the first female president of the financial services company Standard & Poor's, where she was responsible for 8,000 employees in 25 countries.

Today Corbet is retired from the corporate life and runs her own consulting and investment firm, Cross Ridge Capital, which has invested in 10 different businesses. She works from her home in New Canaan, Conn., where she lives with her husband, Randy, and their two college-age sons, Dylan and Ian.

She spends much of her time these days giving back to the institutions and people who contributed to her successful career, and to other business, civic and philanthropic endeavors.

"I am so grateful for so many things that I have been able to achieve in my life," Corbet says, "but I know it's because of my connection to people. I feel so lucky that I've been blessed by family, by friends, by colleagues, and I'm just thrilled to continue my commitment to people."

She has given to Crosby High School in her native Waterbury, Conn., where her late father, John Fruin, a former chemistry and physics teacher, was principal.

She helped Boston College close on a $400 million capital campaign and launch another seven-year $1.5 billion campaign as a member of the Board of Trustees.

She has served on the Board of Directors for Pro Mujer International, a nonprofit organization that provides healthcare support, business training, and micro-lending opportunities for Latin American women trying to escape poverty.

She serves on the Board of Directors of MassMutual Financial Group, chairing its Audit Committee.

She was elected to a four-year term to the Town Council in New Canaan, Conn., a town of 20,000 people in Fairfield County.

And she has served on The Jackson Laboratory's Board of Trustees since 2009.

"The Jackson Laboratory is extraordinarily fortunate to have Kathleen on our Board of Trustees," says Edison Liu, M.D., president and CEO of the Laboratory. "Her expertise in business and finance, her willingness to ask tough questions and to embrace innovative approaches, and her unswerving belief in the Laboratory's potential to transform human health make her an outstanding trustee and champion for our mission."

Corbet chairs the Board's Advancement Committee, responsible for guiding the Laboratory's fundraising and communications.

"Kathleen brings a powerful combination of thoughtfulness, insight and passion to her leadership of the Advancement Committee," says Kristen Rozansky, the Laboratory's vice president for development and communications. "Her commitment to our mission, coupled with her deep understanding of the importance of philanthropy, has been vital to our success in building support."

Corbet was recruited to the Laboratory's Board by one of her mentors, Brian Wruble, who chaired the Board from 2007 to 2011 after his own successful career on Wall Street. Corbet met Wruble when she was only 25 and worked for the company he led, Equitable Capital Management Corp. She quickly impressed him not only with her analytical prowess but her warm personality and ability to lead, develop and nurture employees.

"I've had probably 2,000 employees over the years, and I've always identified her as the single most talented person who ever worked for me," Wruble says. "She's really that good. She's smart, she's optimistic, she's relentlessly logical, and she's nice to everybody. People who worked for her absolutely loved her. They were more productive than they would have been working for anybody else."

Corbet's business, political and people skills have not only proven invaluable for the Laboratory's fundraising, but for its expansion into her home state with the recent establishment of The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine in Farmington.

When Gov. Dannel Malloy began courting the research facility in 2011 as a centerpiece of his economic development plan for biomedical research, Corbet helped assess the Laboratory's opportunities and challenges in Connecticut.

"Kathleen was a supportive voice for this project," says Mike Hyde, the Laboratory's vice president for external affairs and strategic partnerships. "She knows the state well, and she has the confidence of the Malloy administration. She is an astute observer of the political scene in Connecticut. She was a big help."

Corbet says having the opportunity to help JAX Genomic Medicine partner with the state of Connecticut, the University of Connecticut, Yale University and various hospitals is gratifying.

"I love when I can help match the interests of one group with the needs of another," she says. "I am thrilled to play a small part in that. I couldn't be prouder."

Corbet is bullish on JAX Genomic Medicine’s prospects for success, for the same reason she committed to the Laboratory in the first place: its people.

"I'm very proud of the leadership of the Lab," she says. "Attracting Ed Liu from Singapore, that really got us started. There's no question that we are recruiting among the top research scientists not only in the U.S. but from throughout the world, and that's what makes me confident."