Jessica Douglas ‘96: Chair of the Board


Richard Zhang, Managing Editor of Digital

On January 30th, Ahmed Farag and Chris Tennyson, Chair of the Ad Hoc Search Committee and Head of School respectively, sent an announcement to the entire LFA community stating that Jessica Douglas ‘96 would serve as the next Chair of the Board of Trustees at LFA starting July 1st, with John Marlatt’s ‘65 term coming to a close after nine years, highlighting a new chapter for LFA. 

Jessica Douglas was born in Omaha, Nebraska, but, due to her parents’ work, she was able to live in Iowa City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Saudi Arabia, and Spain. However, when Douglas was entering high school, her family decided that it would be best for her to stay at one school. As a result, Douglas chose LFA due to the appealing international community, where she developed lasting relationships. Because of her own experiences, Douglas wants “every student, whether boarding or day, to feel as if LFA is their home and to have every opportunity to follow their passions.” Douglas was a four-year boarding student at LFA, who enjoyed fine and performing arts, Caxy Keys, Girls’ Ice Hockey, lifeguarding, cheerleading, and became a Prefect in her senior year. 

After LFA, she majored in Philosophy and minored in Spanish Literature at Occidental College in Los Angeles. She then earned her JD from Creighton University Law School in Omaha, Nebraska, where she concentrated in criminal law and procedure as well as arbitration and mediation. 

Today, Douglas lives in Peoria, Illinois with her husband of ten years and four-year old son. She works as a Federal Public Defender for the Central District of Illinois, representing clients who do not have the resources or access to proper defense representation against charges of federal level crimes. 

She attributes much of her public defense work and service to her LFA experience, she explained, “I look at many of the cases I handle, and many of those cases come back to a mental health issue, substance abuse, or a difficult upbringing… if I didn’t have the support I received from adults and peers that I did at LFA during my high school years, I could have just as easily been one of my clients.” 

Douglas has already served on the board for five years and held the position of Vice Chair before her nomination  to become the Board Chair. According to Jackie Leib, Executive Assistant to the Head of School and the Board of Trustees, selecting Douglas to become the next Board Chair was a “unanimous decision” for the Ad Hoc Search Committee. The committee itself was formed by members of the Committee of Trustees, one of eight committees that consists of the Board, in this case taking on a central role to be ready and responsible to search for and nominate any new board members, or when the time comes, the Chair of the Board of Trustees. 

Leib further described the role of the Board Chair as more of a “managerial role” as she had consistently put together meeting agendas for John Marlatt. For example, they recently work on important plans that are then presented for the rest of the twenty-eight members of the board to read. Leib that they are in charge of the major capital projects, such as the new Health Center and current plans for a fieldhouse, which are then voted on by the Board Chair and other members. Marlatt also often met with Chris Tennyson, the Head of School, and Leib, to go over the state of the school and discuss projects or anything related to the school. Douglas looks to carry on Marlatt’s duties, and is “very excited to have been selected to this position.” 

Douglas is the first woman since Cate Waddell in 2000 to serve as Board Chair. She mentioned how she is “cognisant” and understands that the board has been doing much better in terms of selecting a more diverse board based on merit. She also described how she “feels a responsibility to encourage other women to step into those [leadership] roles and positions and have those [leadership] opportunities.” The entire LFA community is certainly “very excited” to see what Douglas brings to the table, and we are all invested in what more is to come.