Debra Cafaro '82 Elected to University of Chicago Board of Trustees

Two new members elected to University of Chicago Board of Trustees

By Susie Allen, Wen Huang

The University of Chicago Board of Trustees has elected two new members: Debra A. Cafaro, JD’82, chairman and CEO of Ventas, Inc.; and Kenneth Griffin, founder and CEO of Citadel, LLC. Cafaro and Griffin both began their five-year terms at the June 2014 board meeting.“We are very fortunate that Debra and Ken will be joining us as trustees,” said Board Chairman Andrew M. Alper, AB’80, MBA’81.“They each bring a remarkable record of professional accomplishment to the board, and will add considerably to our capacity for leadership and support.”


Named by the Financial Times as one of the “Top 50 Women in World Business,” Cafaro heads Ventas, Inc., an S&P 500 company with an enterprise value of about $27 billion. Prior to Ventas, Cafaro was the director and then president of Ambassador Apartments Inc. 

A former chair of the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts, she serves on the boards of Weyerhaeuser Company, the Real Estate Roundtable, the Executives’ Club of Chicago, the Economic Club of Chicago and World Business Chicago. Cafaro was recognized as one of ‘50 Women to Watch’ by the Wall Street Journal, one of the 10 ‘Best CEOs’ by Forbes, and one of the ‘100 Most Influential People in Healthcare’ by Modern Healthcare.

After completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Notre Dame, Cafaro received her JD cum laude in 1982 from the University of Chicago Law School, and served as a judicial clerk to the Hon. J. Dickson Phillips, United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, from 1982 to 1983. A founding member at Barack Ferrazzano in Chicago, she practiced real estate, corporate and finance law for 13 years, and taught real estate transactions and finance as an adjunct professor at Northwestern University Law School from 1988 to 1992.  

In 2013, Cafaro made a $4 million gift to provide full-tuition, three-year scholarships for Law School students with financial need. The Law School named Cafaro a distinguished alumna in 2011. At present, Cafaro serves on the Law School’s Business Advisory Council, the Law School Campaign Planning Group, and the Law School’s Visiting Committee.