Susan M. Collins, a Harvard- and MIT-trained economist with extensive experience in government and academia, will be the next president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, the first woman of color selected to lead one of the 12 regional Fed branches since the central bank system was created in 1914.
Collins will join the Boston Fed in July from the University of Michigan, where she has been provost and executive vice president for academic affairs since 2020, the bank said on Wednesday. She arrived at the university in 2007 and served for a decade as dean of its Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy before returning to teaching.
Her groundbreaking appointment caps a four-month search that began after the abrupt retirement of Eric Rosengren amid a controversy over his personal investment trading. With just two people of color currently running regional Fed banks, in Atlanta and Minneapolis, the Boston Fed search committee pledged to consider a diverse pool of candidates.
“This is a brilliant appointment,” said Lisa Lynch, a Brandeis University professor and former chair of the Boston Fed who led the search committee that tapped Rosengren to be president in 2007. “She is a tested leader,” Lynch said, with the expertise and demeanor to be a strong voice at the Federal Reserve in Washington and in the New England business community.
Collins, 63, who is Black, is only the second woman to hold the top job at the Boston Fed. Cathy Minehan served as president from 1994 through 2007.
In an interview, Collins signaled that she would focus on both traditional Fed concerns, such as the labor market, and the kind of community-oriented initiatives the central bank has embraced in recent years. The Boston Fed under Rosengren expanded its outreach to working-class communities and looked for ways to improve the economies of cities such as Lawrence and Lowell.
“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.
After taking office, Collins will be on the central bank’s powerful Federal Open Market Committee. Like the other regional Fed presidents, she will have a vote on interest rates and other policy decisions on a one-year rotating basis, first this year and then again in 2025.
The committee’s mandate is to promote full employment and stable consumer prices, a job that has become especially difficult amid a pandemic that has caused a labor shortage and soaring inflation. The panel is expected to raise interest rates at least three times this year, starting at its March meeting, in a bid to cool off the economy and keep rising prices in check.
Collins declined to discuss her views on inflation or employment.
Collins grew up in New York City but is no stranger to Boston. She graduated summa cum laude from Harvard University in 1980, earned her PhD in economics at MIT in 1984, and then went back 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.
“The Boston area is such a wonderful place, and I am really looking forward to being back,” Collins said.
Collins’s published research has focused on topics such as the drivers of economic growth, currency exchange rates and their ties to economic performance, and the implications of globalization for US labor markets.
She was a popular leader at Michigan’s Ford School, according to Lynch, the Brandeis economist. She was asked to become the university’s provost when her predecessor was fired amid sexual misconduct allegations, and agreed to stay in the post through this academic year. Her boss, university president Mark Schlissel, later lost his job for having an affair with a subordinate.
“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 took 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, which is pushing for more diversity at the central bank. “This shouldn’t be a historic achievement in 2022.”
Dulchin praised Collins as an excellent choice, even as he chided the Boston Fed board for being dominated by directors representing big corporations.
“The search committee worked very hard to ensure a rigorous, open, and inclusive process,” said Corey Thomas, chief executive of Boston cybersecurity firm Rapid7 and deputy chair of the Boston Fed board.
Rosengren stepped down at the end of September, citing a deteriorating kidney condition. His announcement came a few weeks after a watchdog group called Better Markets called on Rosengren and Dallas Fed president Robert Kaplan to resign after they disclosed trades made last year when the Fed was taking extraordinary steps to prop up the economy and financial markets. The trades were included in the financial disclosure forms filed each year by top Fed officials.
Rosengren and Kaplan, who retired in the same week, said their trading followed all Fed guidelines. In the wake of the controversy, the Fed further restricted investment holdings and trading by its officials.
Kenneth Montgomery, the Boston Fed’s first vice president and chief operating officer, has been serving as interim president during the search for Rosengren’s successor. He will remain at the bank in his permanent post.
Collins will oversee the Boston Fed’s monetary policy and economic research, its operational role in the US financial payments system, bank supervision, and community development. The bank has 1,215 employees and its district covers all of New England except for Fairfield County in Connecticut.
She will serve 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.
Collins, whose parents came to the United States from Jamaica, became a US citizen in 1997. She is married to Dr. Donald R. Vereen Jr., who trained at Harvard and Tufts University and at Boston-area medical institutions. They have two adult children.