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Leaders in the Business World

Savoy magazine recognizes two Syracuse University Board of Trustees members for their influential work as Black corporate directors.

Portraits of alumni Sharon Barner and Howard Woolley

Syracuse University Board of Trustees members Sharon Barner ’79 and Howard Woolley ’80 share their perspectives with a number of corporate and nonprofit boards.

Syracuse University Board of Trustees members Sharon Barner ’79 and Howard Woolley ’80 are renowned for their work in the corporate world. Throughout their careers, they have made significant contributions in their respective fields and provided visionary leadership that has benefited corporate boardrooms around the country. This fall, Savoy magazine recognized them on its 2021 list of Most Influential Black Corporate Directors. “I’m really honored,” says Woolley, a longtime telecommunications executive who retired from Verizon Communications in 2013 and now does consulting work. “I view my service as a corporate director as a privilege—an opportunity to give back and make a contribution. I have points of view and perspectives that can be helpful to a board, and I am glad that Savoy included Sharon and me in this landmark issue.”

I view my service as a corporate director as a privilege—an opportunity to give back and make a contribution.

—Howard Woolley ’80
Portrait of Howard Woolley

Woolley is president and CEO of the Howard Woolley Group.

Following his retirement, Woolley established the Howard Woolley Group, specializing in regulatory risk management, public policy and government affairs. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, he serves on the corporate boards of Somos Inc., a telecommunications and registry company where he is the lead director; Allianz Life Insurance of North America; and Apple Hospitality REIT, a real estate investment trust in the hotel business. Along with his work for the University’s Board of Trustees and the Newhouse School Advisory Board, Woolley sits on the board of Johns Hopkins Medicine and other nonprofits. “I view myself as a continuous learner, and it’s great to have the opportunity to expand my mind by serving in board roles working on strategic governance matters across these industries and in academia,” he says.

Portrait of  Sharon Barner

Barner is vice president, chief administrative officer and corporate secretary at Cummins Inc.

Barner is vice president, chief administrative officer and corporate secretary at Cummins Inc., an Indiana-based multinational corporation that features an extensive portfolio of power solutions, from powertrains and fuel systems to automated transmissions and electric power generation systems. Like Woolley, she views the recognition as acknowledgment of her ability to contribute as a leader, drawing on her decades of experience and understanding of what it takes to succeed as a professional and in a business. She also believes it’s important to give back to the businesses and their communities, as well as the employees and residents of those communities. “I get to take my experiences as the employer and employee, as the business operations person and then as a leader, and provide leadership and direction from a bigger platform for those companies,” she says. “To me, it’s the ability to provide a 360 view of companies from those experiences that I’ve seen that can help make a company more successful.”

Barner, a graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, joined Cummins in 2012 as vice president, general counsel. In her current role, she leads several global teams, including communications, marketing, government relations, compliance, facilities, security, legal and shared services. In addition, she serves on a number of public and nonprofit organization boards, including Howmet Aerospace Inc., Indiana Repertory Theatre, Eskenazi Health Foundation, and the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity.

At different points in their careers, both Barner and Woolley were involved in major pieces of legislation that helped shape today’s technologies. As a public policy expert for Bell Atlantic (now Verizon Communications), Woolley worked on the landmark 1996 Telecommunications Act, which deregulated the communications industry and opened local markets to any communications businesses. Barner, an expert on intellectual property law and regulations, worked on legislation that led to the 2011 America Invents Act, which changed the U.S. patent system from granting patent rights to the first to invent to the first to file the patent application. Barner and Woolley are also longtime advocates for diversity, equity and inclusion in their industries. “My work in the diversity and inclusion area is really built on the experience of coming through this profession as a lawyer, and then as a corporate officer,” Barner says. “It comes from the kinds of subtle biases I encountered as well as the support I received as a person and a professional. I had experiences on both sides of that scale, helping me build the tenacity that I have today.”

My work in the diversity and inclusion area is really built on the experience of coming through this profession as a lawyer, and then as a corporate officer.

—Sharon Barner ’79

With all their success, the two trustees point to their time at Syracuse University as influential in shaping their careers. To learn more about their Syracuse student experiences and their professional careers, read our stories about Sharon Barner and Howard Woolley.

Jay Cox

This story was published on .

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Also of Interest

  • S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications

    Long recognized as one of the elite schools of mass communication, Newhouse embraces virtually every known form of information dissemination. Programs are rooted in the liberal arts while you learn how to manage and produce for the mass media and other areas of public communications.

  • College of Arts and Sciences

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  • Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs

    The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs is Syracuse University’s home for innovative, interdisciplinary teaching and research in the social sciences, public policy, public administration and international relations. It includes America’s #1 ranked graduate program in public affairs, offering highly regarded professional degrees alongside advanced scholarly degrees in the social sciences, and it is home to undergraduate programs across the full spectrum of social sciences.

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