DeCoudreaux: The woman behind the resume

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April 15, 2011

President-elect Alecia DeCoudreaux.

Alecia DeCoudreaux is in the room, but she is almost completely hidden by a group of faculty and professors swarming around her like bees. Finally she emerges, slipping out of the crowd, and says in her soft, clear voice, “Let’s go over here,” pointing towards the Rusk Presidential Conference room.

Much has been written about Mills’ next president. The 56-year-old’s rise in the business world has been documented by many, including the San Francisco Chronicle, which reported on January 24th that “DeCoudreaux, 56, is general counsel for Eli Lilly USA in Indiana and chairs the board of trustees at Wellesley College, another top women’s school, from which she graduated in 1976.”

Mills’ own press release details her professional history, which includes achieving her childhood dreams. DeCoudreaux said that, when she was young, she wanted to be a nun, then a lawyer. DeCoudreaux said, her mother always told her that from “a very young age, I was rather argumentative.”

What many people don’t know is the other side of DeCoudreaux, the one who loves to cook and bake for her family, listen to jazz and spend time with Cape Verde-born painter Jose Andrade, who became her husband in March of this year.

Before she begins her tenure at Mills in July, DeCoudreaux and Andrade will take a month-long honeymoon to Africa.

“I feel like I found my soul mate,” DeCoudreaux said.

DeCoudreaux described her wedding as “small and simple.” The ceremony was held in what she described as a “beautiful” courthouse in Indiana, over which DeCoudreaux’s friend presides as a judge. The bride and groom each had three family members in attendance.

“If it hadn’t been small, it would have taken another year to plan.” said DeCoudreaux. She met her now-husband during her first trip to the Cape Verde island of Brava three years ago.

Adrade, a painter, mostly of landscapes, formerly ran a bed and breakfast on the island – the same bed and breakfast at which DeCoudreaux and her mother decided to stay three years ago. She was impressed by the paintings decorating the wall, and was even more impressed when she found out the painter was also the owner of the establishment. Because of the tiny island’s remote location, only one boat comes to the island; when the weather is not ideal, the boat doesn’t come.

The weather was on DeCoudreaux’s side however, “Each morning Jose would come and say, ‘Brava doesn’t want to let you go,’ which meant the boat wasn’t coming,” DeCoudreaux said with a smile on her face.

It helps that the couple has similar interests such  DeCoudreaux also loves to entertain guests.

DeCoudreaux said she doesn’t have a specific food she likes to make, but does appreciate, “anything that has me in the kitchen.” She said she loves to watch old films while she makes food.

The new president is a baker as well, her favorite thing to bake is “chocolate coma cookies,” which can have nuts or dried fruit in them, but most importantly, lots of chocolate.

DeCoudreaux’s niece, Mara Hruby DeCoudreaux, said in an interview earlier in the semester that some of her best memories of her aunt are in the kitchen. “She’s a great cook.”

Hruby DeCoudreaux lives in Oakland, along with Alecia DeCoudreaux’s brother, Victor, and a cousin, who all live, “ten minutes away from Mills,” according to Alecia DeCoudreaux.

DeCoudreaux said she looks forward to living in the Bay Area again. She last lived here in the late 1980s when she worked for an Eli Lilly affiliate in Santa Clara.

“The restaurant scene couldn’t be better.”

According to DeCoudreaux, when she first visited Yoshi’s, she thought she had “died and gone to heaven.” The restaurant combines both food and DeCoudreaux’s favorite type of music: jazz.

DeCoudreaux said when she begins her tenure as President in July plans to live in the President’s house on campus.

“I look forward to living on campus,”  She said what attracted her to Mills was the campus and the small student body, which gives her the opportunity to connect more with students.

One thing she looks forward to is taking daily walks and hikes around campus, and she’s invited members of the Mills Community to join her, and joked “If you can keep up.”

Walking out of the interview, DeCoudreaux showed her down-to-earth nature as she collected the water glasses and returned back to the reception are to deposit them at the dish-collecting table. She insisted we take some more crackers and cheese from the faculty reception she was at before the interview. “I hate to see it go to waste.”

She exited out the front door of Mills hall, then immediately returned.

“The library is that way isn’t it?” she said, as she left again, this time in the right direction.


DeCoudreaux: The woman behind the resume was published on April 15, 2011 in Features

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