Shrewd newcomers raise the bar

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David Vitale

photo by Jason Reblando

David Vitale

To facilitate his overhaul of central office, Arne Duncan is importing an increasing number of senior staffers from outside the world of education. They tend to be canny operatives with top-tier resumes, a species typified by David Vitale, the new chief administrative officer, and Jill Wine-Banks, the chief officer of the education-to-careers (ETC) program. Here’s a hint of what both bring to their new jobs:

David Vitale:

Chief Administrative Officer

David Vitale, now 56, spent the bulk of his career at the First National Bank of Chicago, which merged with NBD Corp. and then with Bank One Corp. He began working for the bank in 1968, straight out of Harvard, and was picked as bank treasurer at age 26. For a decade he directed the bank’s capital markets, foreign exchange and securities trading functions, along the way becoming expert on technology. In 1991, he became head of the corporate and institutional bank, then hiked up to vice chairman two years later and assisted in the subsequent NBD and Bank One post-merger transitions.

“David’s extremely bright and a quick study,” says Richard Thomas, a former First National president and Vitale’s mentor. “He is somewhat more reserved than some others—he would be considered collegial—but he has strong views and will take you on.”

Vitale retired from Bank One in 1999, enriched by his labors (he received some $5 million in Bank One stock for finessing that merger alone). He went on to join the board of the Chicago Board Options Exchange and then, in 2001, signed on as CEO of the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT).

His tenure there proved a short and unpleasant ride. Vitale restructured CBOT management, cut jobs and brought the organization into the black, but some members were dissatisfied with his performance.

“He’s a very talented person, but he was aloof,” says Burt Gutterman, head of a trading firm. “His office door may always have been open, but he never walked out of it. He always had a subordinate communicate with us.”

Vitale was disappointed that the CBOT board failed to deliver on promises to shrink in size and give the CEO a vote. He quit as CEO last November. “That wasn’t part of the deal I’d had,” Vitale says.

Responds Nikolas Neubauer, CBOT chairman during Vitale’s tenure, “David did some good things while he was here, and I’ll leave it at that.”

Vitale arrived at the Board of Education in February. He boasts a long record of community service—he presently sits on the boards of the Art Institute, the Metropolitan YMCA, the Museum of Science and Industry and the Glenwood School for Boys—though he confesses to little prior association with Chicago Public Schools. Vitale and his wife Marilyn, a former clothes buyer, have an eight-year-old daughter who attends a Montessori school in Hyde Park. He grew up in Beverly, Mass., as the only child of a single mother (his father died when he was a boy) who taught third grade there and later was the town’s penmanship instructor.

He feels he’s contributing to the schools at an optimal juncture: “We have a mayor who has made education his highest priority, a good board that wants things to work and a leader like Arne. But here we are spending $4.5 billion a year, and we have to do that in a way where we’re getting full value.”

Jill Wine-Banks:

Chief Officer, education-to-careers

In the early 1990s, Jill Wine-Banks worked for Motorola Inc., the Chicago-based electronics company, helping to set up partnerships to run cellular-phone services in Pakistan, China and Russia. “Jill was putting together deals with some hard-core characters, and it wasn’t easy,” says Michael Norris, Wine-Banks’ boss at the time. “Now she may appear as a very nice lady, but she’s plenty tough.”

The effervescent Wine-Banks, who is around 60, has made a career out of taking on difficult assignments and executing them with a combination of warmth hitched to steely resolve, and not without controversy.

A native Chicagoan, Wine-Banks (then Jill Wine Volner) first came to public prominence in 1974 as assistant counsel to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee investigating the Watergate scandal.

While staging a reenactment, Wine-Banks punched a memorable hole in the story of Rose Mary Woods, President Nixon’s secretary, about how an 18-minute gap could have accidentally occurred on a critical White House tape. But the young lawyer’s appearance in miniskirts made just as much news. “That was sexism at its worst,” she says today. “That’s what women wore at the time.”

After some time in private practice, in 1977 Wine-Banks emerged as general counsel for the U.S. Army, where she opened all job classifications to women and had a hand in negotiating the Panama Canal Treaty. Back in Illinois, she served Atty. Gen. Neil Hartigan as solicitor general and then as his chief deputy before being hired as the first woman executive vice-president of the American Bar Association (ABA). As the ABA’s chief operating officer, she increased membership, added a marketing department and a government lawyers’ section and saw then-Arkansas lawyer Hillary Rodham Clinton chair an association commission on women. “Jill was a sea change,” recalls David Hayes Jr., her second-in-command. “She was a woman, a liberal, and the old conservatives at the ABA didn’t like her at all.”

She was criticized for riding in a limousine as a perquisite of her office. She says the limousine, which merely got her to and from work, “was cheaper than leasing a car.”

In 1990 Wine-Banks resigned from the ABA to briefly relocate to Florida with her husband Michael Banks, an antiques dealer. Through the next decade she toiled for Motorola and then for Maytag, the appliance maker, again exploring new markets abroad. In 2001 she signed on as CEO of Winning Workplaces, an Evanston-based nonprofit that encourages small and mid-sized businesses to adopt job practices that encourage good feelings and sow productivity in employees.

A friend told Wine-Banks about the vocational-education vacancy, and she applied. The committee that interviewed her and other finalists included representatives from business. “Are you sure you want to take on this bureaucracy?” asked Jack Calabro, the human resources vice president at DeVry University, during questioning. “If I can handle the Pentagon, I can handle the Chicago Public Schools,” said Wine-Banks.