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Name and title: Elizabeth J. “Libby” Keefer, general counsel Age: 56 Hail Columbia: Columbia University in the City of New York, founded by royal charter of England’s King George II, is the fifth-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. It was established in 1754 as King’s College, starting with eight students in a Lower Manhattan schoolhouse, and in October celebrated its 250th anniversary. Now based on two principal campuses-Morningside Heights and Washington Heights-Columbia is comprised of three undergraduate schools, 13 graduate and professional schools and a college of continuing education. The Ivy League university has 23,000 total students and 13,000 employees. GC job: Keefer divides her duties into three components: the basic issues of any large institution, such as employment, benefits, litigation and real estate; the “lively and interesting” core of student/faculty issues unique to academia, including tenure, conduct and privacy; and the “huge engine” that is a research university. The university files 100 to 150 patent applications yearly, and Keefer estimates that 50% of the legal department’s work is in this area, which generates $100 million in annual revenues. Keefer manages $500 million in research funds. Columbia is a signee to several government contracts that engender regulatory issues, and she must also ensure compliance with the National Institutes of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration, among others. In 1998, Keefer assisted in the merger of New York Presbyterian Hospital and New York Hospital, and since its doctors are university employees, clinical practice issues can arise for Columbia. Medical malpractice, though, is handled by an outside insurance group. Nonprofits like Columbia have their own set of governance requirements, but the university also has adopted Sarbanes-Oxley-type programs. Senior executive compensation regulations are followed, and government contracts result in A-133 audits for financial accountability and control. Keefer is currently involved in Columbia’s proposed expansion to the nearby Manhattanville area. Rezoning, regulatory processes and discussions with neighboring communities, activists and politicians are ongoing. The school has a renewed emphasis on sports and a new athletic director, M. Dianne Murphy. The legal team participates in matters including coaches’ contracts, NCAA compliance and sponsorships. The legal team also helped establish the School at Columbia, a “hybrid” elementary school that is both private and public. Legal team: Keefer, who reports to President Lee C. Bollinger, supervises a 12-person staff that is exposed “to a huge breadth of issues for a not particularly big office.” As a result, if a legal matter can be handled well outside, it is assigned to external counsel. Columbia’s GC chooses from a dozen firms: Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel; Proskauer Rose; Schulte Roth & Zabel; Hughes Hubbard & Reed; Cravath, Swaine & Moore; and Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, all of New York. Also, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr; Katten Muchin Zavis Rosenman; Hogan & Hartson of Washington; Houston’s Baker Botts; and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and Irell & Manella, both of Los Angeles. She plans to expand her office to include patent prosecution, as “IP and dissemination of knowledge outside of the university is the legal office’s biggest issue.” Keefer said that most university legal departments have expanded, and that the growth of their involvement in areas such as patent prosecution is enormous. She added, “Every year I see something I have never seen before.” Keefer also noted that the USA Patriot Act and issues surrounding export controls present a big challenge, affecting the university’s relationships with its many foreign-born students and researchers. Route to the top: After graduating from Barnard College (1971) and George Washington University Law School (1977), Keefer launched her career at the Federal Trade Commission. She then practiced at Washington antitrust firm Bergson, Borkland, Margolis & Adler. In 1982, Keefer embarked on a peripatetic career with the U.S. Department of State, for which she worked on a series of high-profile, time-sensitive political matters. She arbitrated claims related to the 1979-81 Iran hostage situation. She then worked on the Iran Contra Project, managing State Department responses to legal and congressional inquiries; she also assisted Secretary of State George Schultz with his testimony. Keefer was sent to Iraq to negotiate wrongful death claims generated by the attack on the USS Stark and was part of a team dispatched to the Middle East to mediate a water rights dispute involving Israel, Jordan and Syria. She was also involved in freeing a journalist who had been seized in the Soviet Union in retaliation for an alleged act of espionage. In 1989, Keefer was recruited as deputy undersecretary of the Air Force, “a nonlegal job with legal aspects.” She reorganized the service branch’s international programs, and, during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, toured all allied bases in the Arabian Peninsula. In 1992, she was back in the private sector, at Hughes Hubbard & Reed. In a lengthy case, she partnered with German counsel in settling property claims of Jews persecuted during World War II. After serving until April 1997 as general counsel of Teledyne, a technology conglomerate of 18 separate companies, Keefer returned to her alma mater when the Columbia job beckoned later that year. She speculated that her varied background, which made her “a bit unique,” piqued the university’s interest. Personal: The Connecticut-born Keefer is the mother of soon-to-be Columbia graduate Drew, 23. She is a Washington Redskins fan and cooking aficionado. As a board member of the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, she recently went to Africa to witness the demilitarization of Liberian children. Last book and movie: Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, by Azar Nafisi, and The Motorcycle Diaries.

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