Frank Bolden

Photo Credit: Sally McCay

Frank A. Bolden
Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa

Frank A. Bolden, University of Vermont Class of 1963, appears to direct his professional and personal lives guided by one profound question: “How might I help?” His areas of service span country and community, business and academics, the arts and religion. A strategic leader and active community member, he has left an indelible mark on the many arenas of public life in which he is engaged.

Mr. Bolden had an illustrative career at the University of Vermont, where he embodied the student-athlete model for which the UVM Catamounts have become so widely recognized. He balanced academic work with service as a residence-hall counselor and an ROTC cadet and devotion to the UVM Catamounts. Known for his consistently aggressive and effective play on defense and his ability to catch the tough pass or make the key block on offense, Mr. Bolden received numerous honors in football while at UVM and is a member of the UVM Athletic Hall of Fame.

After graduation, Mr. Bolden served in the United States Army as an Airborne Ranger Infantry Officer, with tours in Germany, the United States, and South Vietnam. In 1969, he entered Columbia University as a graduate student in business and law. A Martin Luther King, Jr., Charles Evans Hughes, Woodrow Wilson, and C.O.G.M.E. fellow, he was also vice-president of the Black American Law Students Association and a defensive line coach for Columbia University’s freshman football team. He graduated from Columbia University in 1972 with Masters of Business Administration and Juris Doctorate degrees.

Beginning his professional career with the prominent international law firm Cahill Gordon, Mr. Bolden later joined the corporate law department at Johnson & Johnson. He became secretary of Johnson & Johnson in 1984 and was promoted to vice-president in 1987. In 2000, he was named Vice President, Diversity Worldwide, with the mission of making Johnson & Johnson the employer of choice in the health care industry.

Mr. Bolden brought this strategic acumen, corporate leadership experience, and global diversity perspective to his alma mater when he joined the University of Vermont Board of Trustees in 1994, where he served on the Executive Committee, the University Advancement Committee, and as Vice Chair of the Educational Policy Committee. Honored for his steadfast commitment to enhancing the quality of the University, as well as modeling values of respect, patience, and ethics, as Chairman of the Board of Trustees from 1998 to 2000 he was a strong voice for building diversity at UVM. Service to his alma mater runs deep: in addition to his trusteeship, Mr. Bolden also served on the Medical Dean’s Advisory Board and on the advisory committee for the UVM School of Business, as well as on the New York Regional Alumni Board. He is currently a member of the UVM Foundation Leadership Council.  His loyal, unselfish, and dedicated volunteer services to his alma mater was acknowledged with the Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Award in 2002.

Giving back to and promoting a culture of excellence in the field of education, Mr. Bolden has also chaired the Board of Trustees for Union County Community College in his home state of New Jersey and served as a board member of Moorestown College and on the advisory committee for Florida A&M’s School of Business. In health care, he served as Chairman of the Board of Overlook Hospital, a hospital leader in neuroscience care, and on the boards of Atlantic Health System and the National Medical Fellowships.

A patron and supporter of the arts, Mr. Bolden has selflessly given his time and talents to theatre and opera. He is a former chair of Crossroads Theatre, the visionary African American theatre in New Brunswick, New Jersey, which has become a premier theatre experience and an integral part of the Rutgers University-New Brunswick Tomorrow redevelopment. He is a former vice president of the New Jersey State Opera and a former trustee of the State Theater in New Brunswick. He has also served on many state and local boards and task forces, including the State of New Jersey Banking Advisory Board, the Task Force for Gender Equity in the State of New Jersey, and the Governor’s Commission on State Equity.

A man of deep faith and a lived motto of putting Christ’s spirit into action, Mr. Bolden currently chairs the national board of directors for the United Church of Christ, the ecumenical Protestant denomination emphasizing social justice, human rights, and global ministry.

Through his dedication to fostering excellence, inclusion, and humanity in organizations across the spectrum of community life, Frank Bolden has distinguished himself as a quietly charismatic and compassionate leader shaping a future of appreciation for the gifts we share and the differences that define us.