Getting the Job Done

Ambassador, mentor, and staunch Fletcher supporter Susan Livingston discusses the roots of her fierce commitment to her alma mater.
Susan Livingston

Susan Livingston, J79, F81, has had an international career. She is partner and global ambassador with the private bank Brown Brothers Harriman and serves in Massachusetts as honorary consul general for the tiny nation of Luxembourg. (“I get a diplomatic license plate,” she said, before adding with a laugh that it sadly doesn’t include the wine cellar that comes with being ambassador to France.) And she credits Tufts and The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy with helping build the foundation for her success.

“Fletcher was for me a very important and formative experience,” Livingston said. “I made lifelong friends at Tufts, and to this day I can remember certain professors.” Passionate about ensuring that future students can have similar experiences, she is a longtime mentor to students and a loyal and generous donor to the school’s annual fund, which supports financial aid, student services, faculty, and academics. Livingston also serves on The Fletcher School’s Board of Advisors and campaign committee.

Livingston made the most of her time at Tufts, which she felt fortunate to attend. She was a double major in political science and German, also studying French and economics. She spent her junior year in the Tufts program in Tubingen, Germany, earning Phi Beta Kappa, and one semester of her senior year in Washington, D.C., before graduating summa cum laude. While earning her Fletcher degree, she studied for a year in Geneva, improving her French (and her skiing).

Although she initially planned on joining the Foreign Service, and even passed the exam, she joined a 14-month management training program with Manufacturers Hanover Trust in New York, and realized that banking was “great fun.” In 1985, she accepted a position at the Boston office of Brown Brothers Harriman (BBH).

By November of her first year, Livingston was sent to Milan to help settle trades for BBH, after a wave of international investment had stalled in an Italian bank. While other representatives of global financial services firms shouted in English at the Italian staff handling the gridlock, Livingston shared espresso and chocolates with them, eventually getting invited into the bank’s back office. For two years, she lived in Milan for a week each month, working alongside the Italians “to get the job done” collaboratively. “Hard work beats talent every time,” Livingston told Fletcher graduates as 2016 Class Day speaker, “although it’s nice to have talent too.”

Livingston’s successful diplomacy in Italy helped boost BBH’s global custody business, and she was later named one of the first two female partners at her firm. Now, as global ambassador and client liaison, she manages C-suite relationships and serves on external boards, including chairing the political action group of the Investment Company Institute, a leading global industry association. Along the way, she lived in Luxembourg from 1992 to 1995, launching her long relationship with that nation.

Now living in Marblehead, Massachusetts, with her husband and teenage daughter, Livingston has served on the boards of the Museum of Fine Arts and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, among others. But she’s particularly loyal to Tufts and its Fletcher School, which prepared her for her global career. “It was intellectually stimulating—an epic, fantastic time,” she said. Through her volunteering and extraordinary financial support, she is making that experience possible for the next generation.