Alumni Spotlight

Peter McPherson ’69: Led Dow Jones & Company

by Leslie Frank

Although he was its chairman for a very short time in its 126-year history, Peter McPherson '69 guided Dow Jones & Company through a critical point in the life of the company. Named chairman in April 2007, McPherson facilitated the sale of the world's most famous publisher of financial news and data to Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.

"I found the chairmanship to be an interesting and rewarding experience," says McPherson. "I voted for the sale as a board member, and I urged the shareholders to do the same."

McPherson chaired the board meetings and was chair of the ad hoc board committee that negotiated with News Corporation. He said that this proved to be an extraordinary, but very demanding and time-consuming endeavor. The board was replaced by a News Corporation board once the buyout was approved.

As independent director of Dow Jones since 1998, McPherson has a wide range of experiences to draw on as the head of Dow Jones. He held various executive positions at Bank of America from 1989 to 1993, most recently serving as group executive vice president of the Investment Management Group. From 1987 to 1989, he was deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury and from 1981 to 1987, he served as administrator for the Agency for International Development (AID). While administrator of AID, he was also chairman of the board of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. Prior to that, he was a special assistant to President Gerald Ford and managing partner of the Washington, D.C. office of Vorys, Sater, Seymore & Pease, an Ohio law firm.

McPherson's appointment at Dow Jones can be credited to Frank Newman, a colleague and chief financial officer at Bank of America, who later filled McPherson's shoes at the Treasury Department.

"When I was there [Bank of America}, I met Frank Newman, who subsequently became deputy secretary of Treasury, the same job I had. He went on the Dow Jones board. He was the guy who really recruited me to be on the board in the 1990s."

McPherson's childhood-on a farm in western Michigan-seems a far cry from his high-powered career in D.C. and NYC. But he drew on those experiences as well-for 11 years as president of Michigan State University, known for its own long history in agriculture. In 2003, the Bush Administration turned to him for help with rebuilding Iraq's monetary system. He took a leave of absence from Michigan State and led a team for the Coalition Provisional Authority, working with the Iraqi Ministry of Finance and Central Bank.

His work at AID and his agricultural background led to his continuing advocacy of food production issues. He is co-founder and co-chair of the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa, an organization dedicated to mobilizing public and private support in the United States for increased levels of assistance to Africa.

While charing the Dow Jones board, McPherson continued his full-time job as president of the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges, based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1887, NASULGC is the nation’s oldest higher education association. Its 217 member institutions are public universities, land-grant institutions and other public universities located in all 50 states, the U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. NASULGC supports high-quality public higher education and its member institutions in their teaching, research, and public service roles and facilitates the discussion and development of policies affecting higher education and the public interest. McPherson resides with his wife Joanne in Arlington, Virginia.