Executive Forum Begins with Georgia Research Alliance President and CEO Michael Cassidy


MACON/ATLANTA – Mercer University's 2017-2018 Executive Forum, presented by BB&T, kicks off Nov. 9 with presentations by Georgia Research Alliance president and CEO Michael Cassidy in Atlanta and Macon.

This year's slate of speakers also includes former White House chief information officer Theresa Payton in January, Delta Air Lines executives Peter Carter and Gil West in March, and an additional, to-be-announced presentation for May.

Cassidy will offer a noon lunch presentation at the Capital City Club in Atlanta and a 6:30 p.m. dinner presentation in the Presidents Dining Room in Macon on Nov. 9.

He serves as president and CEO of the Georgia Research Alliance, a nonprofit that expands research and commercialization capacity in Georgia's universities to launch new companies, create high-value jobs and transform lives. Key initiatives of the alliance include recruitment of top scientific talent, seeding centers of excellence and commercialization of university research discoveries.

Cassidy is co-founder of the GRA Venture Fund LLC, a private investment fund created to finance promising companies that emerge through the alliance's commercialization programs.

He also serves on the board of directors of the State Science and Technology Institute, the Health Care Ethics Consortium, Georgia Advanced Technology Ventures, the Global Center for Medical Innovation, Atlanta Emerging Markets Inc., the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, and the board of governors of the Lake Lanier Sailing Club.

Before joining the Georgia Research Alliance in 1993, Cassidy managed the Advanced Technology Development Center, Georgia's technology incubator. Prior to that, he worked for the IBM Corporation, where he held various staff and management assignments.

He earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in marketing from Georgia State University and a master's degree in technology and science policy from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Payton will offer a noon lunch presentation at the Capital City Club followed by a 6:30 p.m. dinner presentation in the Presidents Dining Room on Jan. 23.

Payton, who starred in the CBS television series “Hunted,” will speak to Executive Forum members and invited guests on Monday at 6:30 p.m. in the Homer and Ruth Drake Field House on the Macon campus. She will offer a second presentation on Tuesday at noon at the Capital City Club in downtown Atlanta.

Payton is one of America's most respected authorities on Internet security, net crime, fraud mitigation and technology implementation. As White House CIO from 2006 to 2008, she administered the information technology enterprise for the president and 3,000 staff members.

Prior to her time in the White House, she was a senior technology executive in banking for 16 years. She founded Fortalice cybersecurity services company in 2008 to lend her expertise to government and private sector organizations. In 2010, she was named one of the top 25 “Most Influential People in Security” by Security Magazine.

Payton earned her bachelor's degree with honors from Immaculata University and went on to the University of Virginia to earn her Master of Science in management information systems. She later earned a certificate in graduate banking studies from The Graduate School of Banking at Louisiana State University.

Carter will offer a noon lunch presentation at the Capital City Club, and West will offer a 6:30 p.m. dinner presentation in the Presidents Dining Room, both on March 20.

Carter has served as Delta's executive vice president, chief legal officer and corporate secretary since July 2015. As CLO, he oversees the company's legal and government affairs worldwide.

Before joining Delta, Carter was a partner at the international law firm Dorsey & Whitney LLP, where he chaired the firm's policy committee and the securities litigation and enforcement practice group. He is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and has been recognized by numerous organizations and publications including being named one of the “Best Lawyers in America for Bet-the-Company and Commercial Litigation,” one of “America's Leading Business Lawyers” by Chambers USA, and “Antitrust Lawyer of the Year” in 2013 by Best Lawyers in America.

Carter serves as a member of the boards of the Alliance Theater and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and was recently appointed to serve on Gov. Nathan Deal's Judicial Selection Task Force.

West is senior executive vice president and chief operating officer for Delta, where he leads the team responsible for safe, reliable operations across the globe, including more than 70,000 employees in more than a dozen different departments.

West joined the company in March 2008 to lead the Delta and Northwest airport and customer service merger integration and help champion customer service and operational improvements, resulting in consistent annual ranking improvements from the Department of Transportation.

Prior to Delta, he worked for Laidlaw Transit Services as president and CEO and also held leadership roles at Northwest Airlines, United Airlines and The Boeing Company.

West earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from North Carolina State University and a Master of Business Administration from National University in San Diego.

BB&T is celebrating its 11th consecutive year as presenting sponsor of the Executive Forum. This year's co-sponsors include Southern Trust Insurance, Georgia CEO, Georgia Trend and The 1842 Inn.

The Executive Forum is a membership organization composed of businesses, organizations and individuals. Events are by invitation only to members. For more information on membership, call (800) 837-2911 or (478) 301-4169, or visit forum.mercer.edu/membership.

About the Executive Forum, presented by BB&T

The Executive Forum, presented by BB&T, is a business outreach program of Mercer University's Eugene W. Stetson School of Business and Economics and the Office of University Advancement. The Executive Forum provides business professionals with an opportunity to hear nationally noted speakers while networking with other business leaders. For more information, call Mercer's Office of University Advancement at (800) 837-2911 or (478) 301-4169, or visit forum.mercer.edu.