General Session Speakers

Dr. Lee Pelton - Don’t Run Away: What the Future Holds


Lee Pelton

Dr. Lee Pelton is the 12th president of Emerson College in Boston. He is a nationally and internationally known speaker and writer on the value of a liberal education and the importance of leadership development, civic engagement, and diversity in higher education. He came to Emerson on July 1, 2011, after serving for 13 years as the president of Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.

Dr. Pelton is a well-respected thought and innovation leader, recognized in Boston Magazine’s May 2017 Power Issue: The 21 Most Powerful People in Boston Business and in its May 2014 Power Issue: The Power of Ideas: 75 Bold Thinkers Who Are Shaping Our City and the World. Other awards include Boston’s 100 Most Influential People of Color (Get Konnected!, 2016), the Rosoff Award 20/20 (The Ad Club, April 2016), the Diversity Leadership Award (The National Diversity Council, October 2015), the Sabra Award (Israeli Stage, November 2014), Boston 50 on Fire, recognizing 50 leading innovators in Boston (BostInno, November 2014), Speak the Truth Award (Student Immigrant Movement, December 2014), and the Champion of Freedom Award (Freedom House, March 2012).

Dr. Pelton began his academic career at Harvard University, where he earned a PhD in English literature with an academic focus on 19th-century British prose and poetry. He taught English and American literature at Harvard and served as senior tutor at Winthrop House. He later served on the Harvard Board of Overseers and as a vice-chair of its executive committee. After Harvard, Dr. Pelton served as dean of the college at Colgate University and Dartmouth College.

He has been featured in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Presidency magazine, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Color Magazine, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, Diversity Journal, and countless newspapers in America and abroad. He has been a guest on National Public Radio (NPR) as well as on an NPR Boston affiliate radio station, WBUR, and PBS affiliate television station, WGBH. He has received honorary degrees from the Urban College of Boston and Tokyo International University.

Over the years, Dr. Pelton has been active in several higher education associations and cultural organizations. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Boston Chamber of Commerce, Museum of African American History (Boston), Boston Arts Academy (chair), the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, Facing History and Ourselves, WGBH and the Barr Foundation, one of the nation’s leading philanthropic organizations.


Hugh Blane – The Financial Strategist: Converting Financial Expertise into Enhanced Client Influence


Hugh Blane

Hugh Blane is President of Claris Consulting. He is a nationally recognized business strategist who assists organizations in solving challenging business issues, strengthening personal and professional relationships, and executing strategic initiatives with greater effectiveness. A subject-matter expert in leadership, team performance, and influence, Mr. Blane is a senior-level consultant who has worked with thousands of people in a wide variety of organizations including Pepperdine University, Spacelabs Medical, KPMG, Costco, Starbucks, and Microsoft.

Mr. Blane is a compelling mixture of consultant, educator, coach, and inspiring speaker who honed his consulting skills with renowned business author, Tom Peters. As a Senior Consultant with the Tom Peters Company, Mr. Blane equipped and inspired leaders to do something daily that moved them and their organizations closer to their greatest potential. With 30-plus years of management, sales, and leadership experience, he approaches his work with the firm belief that the first step in creating breakthrough performance is discovering what matters to you, what motivates you, and what you want to be known for.

Prior to joining the Tom Peters Company, Mr. Blane spent 12 years as the owner and CEO of a financial planning firm where he reinvented what it meant to serve clients. He helped clients gain clarity about their financial goals, and then developed and implemented investment strategies that fulfilled these goals with less risk and greater personal control. The result was a host of satisfied investors who not only accumulated wealth, but who also enjoyed a more rewarding and enriching life.

Mr. Blane is action-oriented. He believes in making every day count, and he inspires those around him to do the same. In his client work, he engages his audience and creates a fun learning environment by calling on his considerable skills as a stage actor. At the same time, he utilizes his natural gift for empathy and clear communication to question, challenge and illuminate.

Mr. Blane doesn’t claim to be an expert about your products and services. You know your business best. His expertise lies in helping you and your organization convert individual, team, and organizational potential into extraordinary performance.


John Walda – Keynote Address


John Walda

John D. Walda is the President and CEO of the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) in Washington, D.C., where he has served since 2006. He served as president of the Indiana University Board of Trustees, as chair of the Indiana Lottery Commission, as a director and chair of the Association of Governing Boards, and as chair of the Board of Clarian Health Partners (now Indiana University Health). He is a member and past-chair of the Steering Committee for the Washington Higher Education Secretariat, a past Director for the American Council on Education, a director of the Indiana University Foundation and he is a trustee for Carroll College and Stetson University.

Before coming to NACUBO, Mr. Walda was a partner in the law firm Bose McKinney & Evans in Indianapolis and was Senior Vice President - Federal Relations for Bose Treacy Associates LLC. Mr. Walda has been a member of the American, Montana and Indiana State Bar Associations; American Inns of Court (Master of the Bench); American College of Trial Lawyers (Fellow); NCAA Presidential Task Force on the Future of Division I Intercollegiate Athletics; AAU Council on Federal Relations; and NASULGC Council on Government Relations. He is on the Board of Directors for the Yellowstone Park Foundation. Walda received both his BA (1972) and JD (1975) from Indiana University.