Hazel R. O'Leary
|14th President of Fisk University|
July 13, 2004 – January 31, 2013
|Preceded by||Carolynn Reid-Wallace|
|Succeeded by||H. James Williams|
|7th United States Secretary of Energy|
January 22, 1993 – January 20, 1997
|Preceded by||James Watkins|
|Succeeded by||Federico Peña|
May 17, 1937
Newport News, Virginia, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Carl Rollins (Divorced)
Max Robinson (Divorced)
John O'Leary (1980–1987)
|Education||Fisk University (BA)
Rutgers University, Newark (LLB)
Hazel Reid O'Leary (born May 17, 1937) was the seventh United States Secretary of Energy, from 1993 to 1997, appointed by President Bill Clinton. She was the first woman and first African American to hold the position. She served as president of Fisk University, a historically black college and her alma mater, from 2004 to 2013.
O'Leary received her bachelor's degree from Fisk before earning her Bachelor of Laws degree from Rutgers School of Law. O'Leary then worked as a prosecutor in New Jersey. She worked in a private consulting/accounting firm before joining the Carter Administration. O'Leary returned to the private sector and rejoined the government as the first Secretary of Energy of the Clinton administration. As Secretary of Energy, O'Leary declassified old documents detailing how the United States had previously conducted secretly tested the effects of radiation on humans.
Early life and education
Hazel Reid was born in Newport News, Virginia. Hazel's parents, Dr. Russel E. Reid and Dr. Hazel Reid were both physicians. They divorced when she was 18 months old.:98 Her father and step-mother, a teacher named Mattie Pullman Reid, raised Hazel and her older sister Edna Reid.:98 Hazel Reid attended school in a segregated school system in Newport News for eight years.:506 Reid and her sister were then sent to live with an aunt in Essex County, New Jersey and attend Arts Hight School, an integrated school.:506 She earned a bachelor's degree at Fisk University in Nashville in 1959.:506 She then married Carl Rollins and had a son before returning to school and earning her Bachelor of Laws degree from Rutgers School of Law in 1966.:506
O'Leary worked as a prosecutor in New Jersey prosecuting organized crime cases. Next she became an assistant attorney general.:507 O'Leary got a divorce and in 1969 moved to Washington, D.C. where she joined the consulting/accounting firm of Coopers & Lybrand.:507 During the Carter Administration, O'Leary was appointed assistant administrator of the Federal Energy Administration, general counsel of the Community Services Administration, and administrator of the Economic Regulatory Administration at the newly created Department of Energy. At the Department of Energy, Hazel met her third husband, Jack, O'Leary.
In 1981, O'Leary and her husband established the consulting firm of O'Leary & Associates in Morristown, New Jersey, where she served as vice president and general counsel. After Jack died of cancer, Hazel moved to Minnesota. From 1989 to 1993, she worked as an executive vice president of the Northern States Power Company, a Minnesota based public utilities company which served approximately 1.6 million customers.
Secretary of Energy
In a press conference on December 21, 1992 held in Little Rock, Arkansas, then President-elect Bill Clinton announced his intention to nominate O'Leary as Secretary of Energy. Clinton officially made the nomination on January 20, 1993, and the Senate confirmed O'Leary by unanimous consent the next day. O'Leary became the first woman and first African American to serve as Secretary of Energy. She was also the first Secretary of Energy to have worked for an energy company. At the time she led the Department of Energy, the department had an annual budget of $18 billion and approximately 18,000 employees.
O'Leary challenged the Department had traditionally been run, particularly as to the Department's focus on developing and testing nuclear weapons. During her tenure, the size of the Department of Energy was reduced by a third. It was also a target for Republicans who wanted it eliminated entirely. While reducing the size of the Department overall, O'Leary shifted resources towards efficient and renewable energy sources, a priority of the Clinton administration.
In this position, O'Leary won plaudits for declassifying old Department of Energy documents. Among the documents declassified were Cold War-era records which showed the U.S. Government had used American citizens as guinea pigs in human radiation experiments, as had long been rumored. President Clinton issued Executive Order 12891, which created the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments (ACHRE) to prevent such abuses of power moving forward. O'Leary also announced $4.6 million in settlement payment to the families of victims of past radiation experiments. Other declassified documents included facts about plutonium the United States previously left in South Vietnam.
O'Leary also pushed to end nuclear testing in the United States. Her efforts resulted in President Clinton signing a test ban on nuclear testing, a ban which other nations joined. Early in her tenure as Secretary, O'Leary met with whistle blowers who said they faced harassment for raising legitimate health and safety issues within the Department of Energy.:100 She announced a "zero tolerance" policy, prohibiting retaliation against whistle blowers at nuclear plants.
O'Leary repeatedly faced criticism during her tenure. The Department allocated $43,500 to a Washington firm to identify unfriendly media outlets. The White House Press Secretary called the project "unacceptable." O'Leary claimed the allocation was made without her direct knowledge and defended the research as an attempt to study the efficacy of the Department's messaging. A Government Accountability Office audit of traveling criticized her for traveling too frequently and spending excessively on accommodations. She apologized to Congressional committees in 1996 for spending which exceeded limits on the funds appropriated to the agency for travel.
O'Leary resigned effective January 20, 1997, explaining she did not wish to stay in the job more than four years. In 1997 Johnny Chung, a Democratic political donor, claimed that O'Leary met with Chinese oil officials after he gave $25,000 to O'Leary's favorite charity Africare in 1995. FBI director Louis Freeh urged an independent investigation. Attorney General Janet Reno determined there was "no evidence" of wrongdoing by O'Leary. Some observes, including a lawyer for the Government Accountability Project, saw some fault in O'Leary's conduct but also saw racism and sexism in the manner in way O'Leary was treated.
After leaving the Department of Energy, O'Leary once again served as President of O'Leary & Associates, her consulting firm. She also sat on the board of environmental engineering firm ICF Kaiser International. In 2000, she became President and Chief Operating Officer of an investment banking firm, Blaylock & Partners. She left Blaylock & Partners in 2002.
Fisk University President
On July 13, 2004, O'Leary was selected as President of her undergraduate alma mater, Fisk University, a historically black college in Nashville, Tennessee, effective upon the announcement. She was officially installed as the university's fourteenth President on October 6, 2005. Prior to O'Leary's tenure, the university tried unsuccessfully to increase its enrollment and experienced financial problems. In 2008, the Fisk had 770 students enrolled and 264 faculty and staff members.
By 2011, Fisk saw its enrollment numbers improve. In spite of improvements by 2011, the school had still operated with a loss in 6 of the previous 9 years. These ongoing financial problems caused the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to place Fisk on probation in 2010 over concerns for the university's finances and future prospects. The probation period ended in December 2013.
Under O'Leary's leadership, Fisk went to Court in December 2005 seeking a ruling that it could sell a portion of the University's Alfred Stieglitz Collection. The collection was bequeathed to Fisk by his widow and fellow artist Georgia O'Keeffe with restrictions as to the collections sale. O'Leary intended to use the sale to fund a new academic building, endow professorships, and rebuild the schools endowment, which had been drawn down multiple times before O'Leary's arrival. The Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation opposed the sale, and later the Tennessee State Attorney General opposed any sale of the artwork out of state. Ultimately, the school was able to reach a deal with Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas to share the collection after seven years of legal battles over the collection. By the time the deal was complete, O'Leary said it was necessary to keep the university open.
Amidst the public battle over attempts to sell the Alfred Stieglitz Collection, O'Leary quietly arranged to sell two other works of art, including a work by Florine Stettheimer. Fisk's board of trustees approved the sale in 2010 although it was not publicly disclosed until The New York Times reported on the sale in 2016. O'Leary defended the decision to sell the art work was done out of necessity amid financial difficulties.
O'Leary has served as a Director for Alchemix Corp. and CAMAC International Corporation. She also served on the Board of Directors for non-profit organizations such as Nashville Alliance for Public Education, Nashville Business Community for the Arts, and Arms Control Association as well as a Trustee on boards of the World Wildlife Fund, Morehouse College, and The Andrew Young Center of International Development.
O'Leary has been married three times.:100 Her first marriage was to Carl G. Rollins, Jr ended in divorce. The pair had a son, also named Carl. O'Leary was briefly married to ABC News anchorman Max Robinson. In 1977 she met John F. O'Leary, then Deputy Secretary of Energy. The pair married on April 24, 1980 and remained married until his death from cancer in 1987. Her son is an attorney.:100 In 1997, O'Leary joined a Presbyterian Church.
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|United States Secretary of Energy