Board of Pensions Names General Counsel

The Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has appointed Vivian D. Wesson as Executive Vice President and General Counsel. The appointment of Ms. Wesson, most recently Chief Intellectual Property Counsel for Marsh McLennan, forwards the agency’s commitment to providing strength and stability in support of the changing Church.

“As we advance our mission of administering benefits and assistance for more people and coordinating whole-person care, the continued development of our leadership team is critical,” said the Reverend Dr. Frank Clark Spencer, President of the Board of Pensions. “The addition of Vivian to our team will strengthen our capabilities in key areas of corporate governance and risk management.”

Dr. Spencer said that Jean C. Hemphill of Ballard Spahr, longtime outside counsel to the agency, will continue as the Board of Pensions’ relationship partner with the law firm.

Ms. Wesson joins the Board of Pensions after more than 16 years at Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc., where she held various leadership roles in key areas such as mergers and acquisitions, compliance, reinsurance, intellectual property, and strategic investments. As Chief Intellectual Property Counsel, she protected the global professional services firm and provided guidance on its cybersecurity efforts.

“The growing complexity of our work, along with the dramatic change underway in the Church and our culture, makes counsel proximity essential,” Dr. Spencer said. “I expect Vivian’s experience in compliance and cybersecurity to be particularly valuable for Board operations. Both are essential to our stewardship of resources and guardianship of personal data and, ultimately, to the service we provide employers and members of the church Benefits Plan.”

“I’m excited to be joining the agency’s leaders as they meet change on multiple fronts,” Ms. Wesson said. “Their commitment to those the Board serves, to their own staff, and to building a truly diverse and inclusive workplace is as refreshing as it is admirable.”

Ms. Wesson’s lifelong commitment to social, economic, and environmental justice began in her formative years in Gary, Indiana. “I grew up steps away from a housing project built on the edge of a landfill that poisoned the local water supply for nearby residents,” she has said. “I was deeply impacted by that experience and the impact it had on residents with low socioeconomic status. That fueled my passion to fight environmental racism and to be a champion for justice.”

At Marsh McLennan, she served on the legal and compliance community action committee as well as its recruitment and retention team and spent more than a decade promoting and advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. She co-chairs the Environmental Justice Subcommittee of the New York State Bar Association’s Task Force on Racism, Social Equity, and the Law. And she is chair of the association’s Committee on Attorney Professionalism.

“Vivian brings a broad legal background as well as a compelling personal narrative that has inspired advocacy for diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said Dr. Spencer. “She is the ideal addition to the agency’s Executive Team as we move into the next generation of change, for the agency and for the Church.”

Ms. Wesson attended Pomona College, in Southern California. After graduation, she moved to New York City and managed a law firm’s real estate paralegal group. She then attended law school at Fordham University and worked as an associate at the firm of O’Melveny & Myers before joining Marsh & McLennan.

During her transition into her role at the Board of Pensions, Ms. Wesson will work closely with Ms. Hemphill, relationship partner with Ballard Spahr. Ms. Hemphill has served as outside legal counsel to the agency for 25 years. She was instrumental in drafting the 2017 Benefits Plan, which removed barriers to benefits eligibility and grew plan membership. Ms. Hemphill was the Board’s in-house counsel for five years before joining the Philadelphia-based national firm, where she is senior counsel, leading the Health Care Group.

“The Board of Pensions and the Benefits Plan have undergone tremendous change in the last three decades” Ms. Hemphill said. “In recent years, change has continued at an unprecedented pace. Vivian’s comprehensive legal experience, combined with her leadership skills, will provide valuable support to the agency in the years ahead. I look forward to working with her.”

“Jean knows the Board of Pensions and the Benefits Plan better than anyone else,” Dr. Spencer said. “She is also among the best church benefits attorneys in the country. With the addition of Vivian to our leadership team and Jean as our Ballard relationship partner, we are securely positioned for the future.”