Mount Holyoke Alumna Dives Head First Into Complex Problems
“Whenever I’ve powered through . . . and taken a challenge where I didn’t know I’d be successful, I’ve never regretted it,” says Mary Francis ’86, the corporate secretary and chief governance officer for Chevron.
In her current role at Chevron, where she has been for fifteen years, Francis supports the board of directors in their work of overseeing and directing the company. This includes assuring the company’s compliance with Delaware law, stock exchange listing standards, leading the company’s shareholder engagement activities, and addressing questions regarding environmental, social, and governance that shareholders and non-governmental organizations have about Chevron.
A graduate of William & Mary Law School, Francis’s previous roles with Chevron include chief corporate counsel and managing counsel in their shipping company, which she found to be a fascinating assignment because it allowed her to work in maritime law. “Since my great-grandfather was a merchant sea captain, I really got into that,” recalls Francis. She loves that her work allows her to create solutions to challenging problems. “There is always a way through a challenge, but it requires commitment, an open mind, critical thinking, prioritizing, and removing emotion from the equation,” says Francis, who keeps her skills honed outside of the office, too.
“In my downtime, I find it very satisfying to crack a really hard crossword puzzle.”
Reflecting fondly on her time in South Hadley, Francis says Mount Holyoke challenged her not just to pursue good grades but to pursue knowledge, and to appreciate complexity. And she created other opportunities to practice critical thinking as a student. One year during finals week Francis and some friends dared each other to spend the night in the library. “We convinced ourselves that we needed to study all night. We made a plan for where we’d hide, what lights we could use without being detected, where we’d stash snacks (very important!),” remembers Francis. “We pulled off this caper without cell phones and were quite impressed.” (Of course, she says, they didn’t get any studying done and were exhausted the following day. A lesson learned.)
While she wouldn’t consider her life path to be serendipitous, Francis says being in the right place at the right time and never being afraid to throw herself “into the deep end” helped lead her to where she is today. Always looking for new ways to challenge herself, Francis admits she sometimes thinks about life after retirement and what she would do next. “I love working with my hands, so I think I’d like to grow olives and make olive oil, or grow grapes for wine.”
—By Jess Ayer
April 27, 2017