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  • Writer's picturePatricia Salkin

1st Woman to Lead Bentley Univ., Gloria Cordes Larson, Former Government Lawyer and Business Leader

In 2007, Bentley University named respected attorney, public policy expert and business leader Gloria Cordes Larson as the 7th President and first woman to be appointed as the campus leader. By the time she stepped down in 2018, she had a long list of impressive accomplishments that grew Bentley from a small regional business college to one that became a highly ranked nationally recognized institution.

Larson earned her J.D. at the University of Virginia School of Law. During law school she worked on pro-bono mental health and environmental projects, and after school she ran a statewide legal services program for the elderly. She was then tapped to work for Commissioner Pat Bailey at the Federal Trade Commission – an experience that was transformative in the 1980s since Pat Bailey, a woman, hired other women attorneys. Larson moved to Massachusetts when Governor William Weld asked her to serve as Secretary of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, and then later as his Secretary of Economic Affairs. Larson departed government to join the firm of Foley Hoag. A friend recommended that she apply to become the President of Bentley as they were looking for a new model for a college president.

Gloria Cordes Larson’s advice to women is, “…find the ability to take risks professionally, so you’re not just treading water. It’s the only way you can move forward while we collectively address all those other challenges to progress.”

Today, Bentley University is home to the Gloria Cordes Larson Center for Women and Business, which is dedicated to advancing gender equity from the classroom to the boardroom and providing thought leadership in this space. In naming the Center in her honor, the Chair of the University Board of Trustees noted, “The founding of the Center for Women and Business under Gloria Larson's leadership comes after a long career spent blazing new trails for women in government and business. She understood workplace gender equality issues were not going to be an easy fix--we needed to both focus on preparing students for the world we want to see tomorrow and help businesses enact meaningful changes today.”

In 2021 Larson was invited back to Bentley to deliver the Commencement address to the last class admitted during her tenure. In that speech, she offered five professional and personal life lessons to the graduates (which she went into some detail to explain): pursue opportunities the bring the most meaning to your life; bring a consistently positive attitude to the workplace while adopting a realistic view of mistakes and challenges; mentors, sponsors and networks matter; ask for new opportunities and take bold risks throughout your career; and life beyond the office is critical to personal well-being.

While at Bentley University, Gloria Cordes Larson authored a popular book, PreparedU: How Innovative Colleges Prepare Students for Success. Among other things, the book is a guide to success by how one goes to school, not where one attends.


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