Media gallery

Crisis and Response: Stories of Leadership
Second Biennial Alumni-in-Residence Program

7:00 p.m. March 26, 2019
Shaw Hall, Younts Conference Center
Furman University

Presented by Furman University’s Riley Institute and Department of Politics and International Affairs. This event is free and open to the public.

We thank the Mayville Foundation and Furman’s Office of Academic Affairs for their support of the 2019 Alumni-in-Residence program.

Four Furman alumni returned to campus to tell their stories of leadership during times of crisis as part of the Riley Institute’s yearlong celebration of principled leadership. Speakers included a U.S. Ambassador, a CEO, a CIO, and a former FDIC Legislative Director that spoke about defeating Ebola, dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline, helping Detroit out of bankruptcy, and pulling the financial system back from the brink in 2008.


Danielle Vinson, Ph.D. ’89, Professor, Department of Politics and International Affairs


Pulling the Financial System Back from the Brink in 2008

Eric Spitler ’81, Special Advisor to the CEO of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority; former Director of the Office of Legislative Affairs of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)

Using IT to help Detroit out of Bankruptcy

Beth Niblock ’82, Chief Information Officer, City of Detroit

Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Jason Terrell ’12, Co-founder and Executive Director, Profound Gentlemen

Defeating Ebola in Liberia

The Honorable Deborah Malac ’77, U.S. Ambassador to Uganda; former U.S. Ambassador to Liberia


Leadership in Times of Crisis


The Honorable Deborah R. Malac, Furman class of 1977, international studies, U.S. Ambassador to Uganda, is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service who has served with the Department of State since 1981. Before coming to Uganda, Malac was the U.S. Ambassador to Liberia and a critical part of the response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak there. She previously served as the director of the Office of East African Affairs at the State Department in Washington, D.C. and in numerous capacities in such places as South Africa, Ethiopia, Thailand, Cameroon, and Senegal.

Ambassador Malac holds a B.A. in international studies (magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) from Furman University, an M.A. in foreign affairs from the University of Virginia, and an M.S. in national resources strategy (Distinguished Graduate) from the National Defense University. She spent a year studying international law at the University of Basel on a post-graduate fellowship under the auspices of the Fulbright Foundation. She also speaks French, German, and Thai.

Beth Niblock, Furman class of 1982, political science, was named Detroit’s chief information officer (CIO) after serving 11 years as CIO for Louisville Metro. In Louisville, she transformed the city’s website, which led to a first-place national ranking in Center for Digital Government’s “Best of the Web” awards. Prior to becoming Detroit’s CIO, she was a member of the technology team led by the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy that visited the city in 2013 to identify ways to grow and improve city services through the use of information technology. She built a robust and resilient network by replacing outdated computers and consolidating all of the city’s information technology. As CIO, she is leading Detroit through a number of pilot programs such as online payment processing, an app for citizens to navigate bus routes, a new computer dispatch infrastructure for emergency responders, and a real-time crime monitoring system for the police.

Beth graduated from Furman University in 1982 with a B.A. in political science.

Eric Spitler, Furman class of 1981, political science, is currently the special advisor to the CEO of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. He retired in 2015 as the director of the Office of Legislative Affairs of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) after serving in numerous roles since coming to the FDIC in 1991. As director, he led the office that served as the FDIC’s liaison with Congress and advised the chairman, Board of Directors, and senior management on policy and legislative matters.

Eric served as director from 2012 – 2015 and also from 2006 – 2009, during the peak of the 2008 financial crisis. During the 2008 financial crisis, the FDIC managed the failure or near failure of several hundred banks, including some of the largest banks in the U.S.  From 2009 – 2012, he served as counselor to the chairman and director of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) under former chair Mary Shapiro. In that role, he represented the SEC on Capitol Hill during congressional consideration of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Spitler graduated summa cum laude from Furman University with a B.A. in political science. He received the Ulmer Political Science Award and was Furman’s first Truman Scholar. He received his J.D. with honors from the University of North Carolina School of Law.

Jason Terrell, Furman class of 2012, political science and philosophy, is the co-founder and executive director of Profound Gentlemen, a national agency dedicated to increasing the percentage of educators in America who are men of color beyond the current 2%. By building community among male educators of color, Profound Gentlemen seeks to support mentors and positive role models as a way to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline and create a school-to-career pipeline for boys of color.

Jason was inspired to pursue this work after spending three years as a Teach for America corps member in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. In addition to teaching, Jason served as a mentor, athletic coach, and tutor for students in his school, and he became deeply invested in their pursuit of academic and personal success. In 2014, along with Mario Jovan Shaw, he founded Profound Gentlemen, and, in 2017, they were named to Forbes 30 under 30 list of social entrepreneurs.

Jason received a B.A. in political science and philosophy with a minor in Black studies from Furman University and an M.S.Ed. in secondary education and teaching from Johns Hopkins University School of Education.


Danielle Vinson, Ph.D., Furman class of 1989, political science and English is professor of political science specializing in media and politics, the American presidency and American government. She is the author of two books Local Media Coverage of Congress and Its Members and Congress and the Media: Beyond Institutional Power and numerous articles and chapters relevant to media and politics. She is often called upon by local, national, and even international press, especially during presidential primaries, to make sense of South Carolina politics (not quite as impossible as it sounds). A graduate of Furman University, she received her M.A. and Ph.D. from Duke University.