Ex-American Express CEO revives Old Westbury forum

Back in business: SUNY-Old Westbury is reviving its Executive Leadership Series with a visit from former American Express CEO Ken Chenault.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

The former head of American Express will help SUNY Old Westbury resuscitate its ambitious Executive Leadership Forum.

The forum – SUNY-Old Westbury’s effort to bring national business icons to Long Island for informative presentations before regional business leaders – debuted in 2013 with JPMorgan Chase Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon in the center seat. But it’s been dormant since then, with the school focused on “other priorities,” a spokesman said Thursday.

It storms back in fine form April 18, with Ken Chenault – currently serving as chairman of a top Silicon Valley venture capital firm – slated to offer his insights and opinions on the American economy and global business.

The high-caliber speaker – who retired in January after serving 17 years as chairman and CEO of American Express and was ranked in 2014 by Forbes Magazine as one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders – is expected to highlight areas where growth and investment can occur and to discuss the keys to management and corporate success.

Calvin Butts III: Chenault is a great get for SUNY-Old Westbury.

Landing one of “the most recognized and powerful financial executives in the world” is a major score for the reanimated Executive Leadership Series, according to SUNY-Old Westbury President Calvin Butts III.

“I am certain his remarks will be topical, provocative and meaningful to all of us as we seek to create a better economic future for ourselves, our families and our Long Island community,” Butts said in a statement.

Chenault joined New York City-based American Express in 1981 as director of strategic planning and also logged stints as the Fortune 100 global services company’s vice chairman and COO.

He became the chairman and managing director of Massachusetts-based VC firm General Catalyst in February. Among General Catalyst’s claims to fame are early-stage investments in such major-league successes as Airbnb, HubSpot, KAYAK and Warby Parker, among others.

Chenault – who also serves on the director boards of Airbnb, Facebook, IBM, Procter & Gamble Co., the Harvard Corp. and numerous nonprofit organizations – graduated from Bowdoin College in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in history. He earned a law degree from the Harvard Law School in 1976.

The renowned executive has received honorary degrees from several universities and awards from a variety of civic, social-service and community organizations.

SUNY-Old Westbury’s Executive Leadership Forum is scheduled to return at 11:30 a.m. April 18 at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Old Westbury College Foundation, a not-for-profit organization supporting the college’s academic and student-service programs.

More event information and registration details can be found here.