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Osborn named new NU trustees chair

William A. Osborn, chairman and a director of Northern Trust Corporation, has been elected chair of the board of trustees of Northwestern University.

He succeeds long-time Chair Patrick G. Ryan. Ryan will retire as chair on Aug. 31, but will remain a member of the board.

Osborn, 61, received an undergraduate degree in 1969 from Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and an MBA degree from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management in 1973.

He joined Northern Trust in 1970 and subsequently held leadership positions in the Commercial Banking and Personal Financial Services business units.

He was named President and Chief Operating Officer in December 1993 and was named Chief Executive Officer, in addition to President, in June 1995.  He became Chairman in October 1995 and ended his tenure as Chief Executive Officer on Dec. 31, 2007.

“I am truly honored to accept the chairmanship. Under the leadership of Pat Ryan and President Henry Bienen for the past 14 years, Northwestern has made remarkable progress,” Osborn said. “I know I have big shoes to fill, and I’m very much looking forward to working with incoming President Morton Schapiro.”

Osborn was elected to Northwestern’s board in June of 1996 and currently serves as one of its vice-chairs.

He has been chairman of the budget committee since 2002 and serves as a member of the executive, nominations, and compensation committees.

In 2008, he chaired the university’s presidential search committee. He also serves on the advisory board of the Kellogg School of Management. His wife, Cathy, is a 1972 graduate of Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

Osborn is a director of Caterpillar Inc., Tribune Company and Abbott Laboratories.

In addition to his position on Northwestern’s board, he is a member of the board of the Museum of Science and Industry and serves as chairman of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association.

He serves on the board of directors of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare, the Chicago Urban League, the Renaissance Schools Fund and the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and he is a member of the board of managers of the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago.

In addition, he is a director of United Way of Metropolitan Chicago Inc., The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, The Economic Club of Chicago and the Terra Foundation for American Art.

“Bill has served Northwestern and the Chicago area admirably in a variety of capacities and his work in leading the presidential search committee was exemplary,” Ryan said. “I’m confident that Northwestern will continue to thrive under his leadership and that of President Schapiro,” Ryan said.

Ryan, the distinguished civic and business leader who now heads Chicago’s efforts to host the Olympics in 2016, became chair of Northwestern’s board in 1996.

After graduating from Northwestern in 1959, he started as an entrepreneur and founded an insurance agency, which grew to become Aon Corporation, a global leader in risk management, insurance and reinsurance brokerage, human capital consulting and outsourcing.

He has been a member of the Board since 1978 and chaired the search committee that selected President Bienen.

Ryan and his wife, Shirley Welsh Ryan, a 1961 Northwestern graduate, have been major donors to Northwestern, as well as many other institutions and causes in the Chicago area.

Gifts to Northwestern from the Ryans have helped provide scholarships for low-income students, build and endow Northwestern’s renowned Nanotechnology Center, renovate Northwestern’s football and basketball stadiums, and endow undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships.

Ryan was elected in 2008 to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, reflecting his many contributions to higher education and his role as chair of the Northwestern Board of Trustees for 14 years.

“It would be impossible to overstate the contributions, both in terms of time and talent and financial support, that the Ryans have given to Northwestern,” Osborn said. “The University is truly a better place as a direct result of the dedication and hard work of Pat in his role as chair of the board of trustees.”

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