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New Man at the Helm

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The 2006 ABA Annual Meeting opened in Honolulu with an unusual air of mystery, at least for the people who are part of or who work with the association’s leadership community.

Expectations were running high that a new executive director would be named at some point during the meeting to replace Robert A. Stein, who announced a year ago that he would resign soon after this annual meeting. A committee chaired by 2004 2005 ABA President Robert J. Grey Jr. of Richmond, Va., began a search process soon after Stein made his announcement.

But the identity of the final candidate was such a well kept secret going into the meeting that speculation was floating in several wrong directions as late as the day before the announcement was made.

ABA President Michael S. Greco of Boston (whose own term concluded at the close of the Honolulu meeting) ended the suspense on the second day of the gathering, when he announced to the Board of Governors, and then at a news conference, that the association’s new executive director would be Henry F. “Hank” White Jr., 60, a trade association executive and retired rear admiral in the U.S. Navy Reserve.

“After a yearlong national search, we found a leader who has the vision and versatility the ABA needs to meet the complex issues and challenges facing the association and the legal profession today,” said Greco. “Hank White brings to the position of ABA executive director a unique blend of skills as lawyer, administrator and executive; a demonstrated record of leadership, professionalism and accomplishment; a results oriented attitude and dedication; and a demonstrated commitment to public service.” While White’s selection was made official at the annual meeting, the transition won’t become final until he starts in the position Oct. 16. Stein will continue to serve as executive director until that date.

White, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and Fordham University School of Law in New York City, is leaving his position as president of the Institute of International Container Lessors to become administrative head of the ABA. At the time of his selection, White, a resident of the Bronx, also was serving on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Ad­visory Committee on Commercial Operations of Customs and Border Protection.

Early in his career, White practiced law at Hill, Betts & Nash in New York City. He later served as deputy commissioner of transportation for New York City and as coun­­sel to the mayor. His military career included a tour as vice commander of the Navy’s largest operational command, with responsibility for organizing, manning and equipping all U.S. naval combat forces and for the direct operation of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet.

Coming and Going

“The ABA’s commitment to professionalism and public service is the embodiment of the ideals found in the members of the legal profession with whom I have had the opportunity to serve almost three decades,” said White, whose primary appearance at the annual meeting was his formal introduction to the House of Delegates. In a brief address to the House, White recognized the ABA’s energetic approach to dealing with important issues facing the justice system. “You have that sense of dissatisfaction that drives the brightest and the best in this democracy,” he said. Stein was still a busy presence in Honolulu as he closed out his 12-year run as executive director.

Stein, who is returning to teach at the University of Minnesota Law School in Minneapolis, where he served as dean before coming to the ABA, is leaving behind at least a couple of going away gifts for the association: a balanced budget and a new record membership total of 413,108 on Aug. 31.

“I leave the ABA in great shape, ready to face the challenges of the future,” Stein said in his farewell address to the House.

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