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Jamaican Immigrant Becomes First Black Woman Chosen to Lead a Federal Reserve Bank

Economist Susan M. Collins has become the first Black woman to lead one of the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks since the central bank system was created in 1914. She was appointed the next president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston on Feb. 9 and will start in her new role in July. Collins has been provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Michigan since 2020.

Bank
(Photo from University of Michigan)

A Harvard- and MIT-trained economist with extensive experience in government and academia, Collins, 63, is only the second woman to helm the Boston Fed. Cathy Minehan was president from 1994 through 2007.

Collins will also be on the central bank’s powerful Federal Open Market Committee, whose mandate is to promote full employment and stable consumer prices.

“This is a brilliant appointment,” Lisa Lynch, a Brandeis University professor and former chair of the Boston Fed, told ABC News. “She is a tested leader,” Lynch said, with the expertise and demeanor to be a strong voice at the Federal Reserve in Washington and the New England business community.

Collins, whose parents immigrated from Jamaica, became a U.S. citizen in 1997. 

In a recent interview, Collins indicated she would focus on both traditional Fed concerns, such as the labor market, and the kind of community-oriented initiatives the central bank has focused on in recent years. 

“I’ll note that a common theme throughout my career has been commitment to the mission of public service to improve lives — whether through education, research, or policy,” she said.

Collins grew up in New York City and graduated summa cum laude from Harvard University in 1980. She later earned her Ph.D. in economics at MIT in 1984 and then returned to Harvard to teach.

She later moved to Washington, where her posts included senior staff economist at the President’s Council of Economic Advisers in the first Bush administration, professor at Georgetown University, senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution, and visiting scholar at the International Monetary Fund. She served for nine years as a director at the Chicago Fed.

“Dr. Collins brings the technical expertise and insight to contribute to policymaking and the leadership ability to head the organization,” said Christina Paxson, president of Brown University, who is chair of the Boston Fed board and led the search committee.

It’s taken far too long for a Black woman to be named to the top job at a regional Fed branch, said Benjamin Dulchin, director of the Center for Popular Democracy’s Fed Up Campaign. “This shouldn’t be a historic achievement in 2022.”

Collins will oversee the Boston Fed’s monetary policy and economic research, its operational role in the U.S. financial payments system, bank supervision, and community development, according to a press release. The bank has 1,215 employees, and its district covers all of New England except for Fairfield County in Connecticut.

She will replace Eric Rosengren, who is retiring early due to kidney problems. Collins serves the remainder of the current five-year president’s term that runs through the end of February 2026. At that time, she would be considered for reappointment. Regional Fed presidents initially appointed after age 55 are eligible to serve up to 10 years in office. Rosengren earned $450,500 in 2020, according to the most recent annual report from the Federal Reserve.

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