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Michele Coleman Mayes, ’74, to Deliver Michigan Law’s May Senior Day Address

February 18, 2019
By Lori Atherton

Michele Coleman Mayes, JD ’74, BA ’71, will deliver Michigan Law’s Senior Day address on Friday, May 10. She is the vice president, general counsel, and secretary of The New York Public Library, one of the largest public libraries in the United States, and also serves as its chief legal officer.

Mayes—who is described as a “a trailblazer, highly regarded in-house counsel, and dedicated alumna” by Michigan Law Dean and Nippon Life Professor of Law Mark D. West—will speak to graduates at 4 p.m. in Hill Auditorium.

“It is an honor to be invited to speak at Senior Day. I certainly could not have anticipated such an invitation when I left the Law School,” Mayes said. “On the other hand, why not? My Michigan Law education prepared me to travel many roads—some were paved, some were not, but whichever the case, I kept moving forward. Now, my journey is taking me back home. I am looking forward to the opportunity to share reflections and lessons, but more importantly, to remind these talented graduates to keep moving forward even when the path is unpaved.”

Mayes’s career encompasses work in the public and private sectors, including in senior legal positions at Unisys Corporation, Colgate-Palmolive, and Allstate Insurance Company. From 1976 to 1982, she served at the U.S. Department of Justice as an assistant U.S. attorney in both Detroit and Brooklyn, rising to chief of the civil division in Detroit.

She is the recipient of the American Bar Association’s Margaret Brent Award, the Minority Corporate Counsel Association’s Trailblazer Award, and The American Lawyer’s Lifetime Achievement award.

In 2011, Mayes co-authored Courageous Counsel: Conversations with Women General Counsel in the Fortune 500, which chronicles the rise of women to the role of general counsel.

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