Cynthia A. Glassman (Cyndi) ’67 is a Corporate Board member, former SEC Commissioner and Under Secretary of Commerce, and a panelist for the upcoming WWC event “Is Board Service for Me?” on May 19.
How she chose Wellesley: I grew up in Brooklyn, NY I had a relatively young high school math teacher whom I admired very much. She had gone to Radcliffe, which got me interested in women’s colleges. I wanted to be near a big city and be somewhere other than New York. Wellesley’s campus won me over.
Why she became an economics major: I was going to major in math but my freshman calculus course was disappointing. However, my freshman economics course was great. The Economics department chair, Carolyn Shaw Bell, had started teaching a class every year for freshmen only. It was terrific to be in a class that used some of my math skills but didn’t have intimidating upper-classwomen in the class. So, I switched my major.
Beware of flying rocks! I took also took physics freshman year. I specifically remember enjoying throwing rocks out the window and measuring their speed as they fell. At the time, Physics was taught in Pendleton, not the building that looks like the Pompidou Center!
She almost became a computer programmer: While at Wellesley, I was mathematically inclined and I wanted to learn how to program computers. I spent a summer at Rutgers learning how to program, and then I had a couple summer jobs where I actually programmed. By senior year I decided I wanted to get a PhD in economics, so I went straight from Wellesley to the University of Pennsylvania.
About her time living in England. I met my husband my first weekend in Philadelphia. He was a med student. He was drafted as a physician in the Air Force but was deferred to finish his training. Ultimately he was sent to a base outside Cambridge, England as a radiologist. While we were there, I finished my dissertation and served as a supervisor in economics at Cambridge. I became a member at Lucy Cavendish College at Cambridge, where I am now an Honorary Fellow.
On the changing role of women in finance: In the beginning, especially in financial services, there were few women in senior roles. Once, when I was a consultant to a financial services trade association for the largest banks, I attended their national meeting where I was one of a handful of women. A bartender said to me, “are you with this group?” I said, “yes.” He said, “You must be one special lady!” There has been huge progress over the years, but there is still room for improvement.
How she became an SEC Commissioner: After 12 years at the Fed, I spent 15 years in financial services consulting. In 2001, President George W. Bush wanted an economist to join the lawyers as a Commissioner at the Securities and Exchange Commission, and nominated me.. I served in that role from 2002 to 2006. Then I was confirmed as the Undersecretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs for the rest of the Bush administration. Since then I have joined two company boards, currently serving as Audit Chair of Discover Financial Services. I put on programs on corporate governance at the GW business and law schools. I am a member of the 5 person Dow Jones Special Committee (along with another Wellesley alum, Anne Patterson.) Over my career, I have also been on several non-profit boards.
How she has been spending her quarantine. I live in Old Town Alexandria, in a condo overlooking the Potomac. Since I’m not traveling for my board work, or visiting our son and family in NYC, or on any of our frequent vacations around the globe, I’ve been working at home, trying new recipes, going to aerobics classes outside, and becoming an expert in Zoom! Unfortunately, my husband and I have had to cancel vacations to Lake of the Ozarks and to the Azores. We have a trip planned this summer to visit friends in England and then return by sea on the Queen Mary II. When we moved back to the States from England in 1977, we sailed on the Queen Elizabeth II, so we hope our summer trip happens and will bring back lovely memories of that prior transatlantic voyage.
The Washington Wellesley Club is excited to introduce you to DC area alums through this series of online profiles. Local alums will talk about living and working in DC and share memories of Wellesley. These profiles will illustrate how Wellesley alums stay creative and resilient despite the challenges that inevitably come our way.