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Daughter of Joyce Gooden and the late Stuart Gooden, of Elizabethtown. Donna graduated from East Bladen High School and was recipient of UNC Morehead Scholarship.

Donna Gooden Payne, university counsel and vice chancellor for legal affairs at East Carolina University, has been named university vice president and general counsel at Rochester University. School President Sarah Mangelsdorf announced Payne’s appointment, which is effective Oct. 21 and follows a national search.

“I am thrilled to welcome Donna to the University. Her leadership and experience as chief legal counsel at a large and multifaceted research university, as well as her understanding of the complex laws and regulations affecting higher education and how they are evolving will be immensely beneficial to our institution,” said Mangelsdorf.

University general counsel has oversight for all institutional legal matters, inclusive of the Medical Center, and leads the attorneys and day-to-day operations of the University’s Office of Counsel. A member of the University’s senior leadership team, the vice president and general counsel is the key legal adviser to the president, board of trustees, and leadership throughout the University.

Payne succeeds Gail Norris, who in March, announced her retirement effective at the conclusion of a successful search for a new vice president and general counsel.

“I want to thank Gail for her 14 years of service to the University and guiding the institution through many legal and compliance issues, large projects and agreements, and strategic initiatives. Although we have not been colleagues at the University for very long, I have truly appreciated her expertise and have enjoyed working with her,” said Mangelsdorf.

Payne has been serving as chief legal counsel at ECU—a large, public research university part of the University of North Carolina System—since 2008, advising its chancellor, board of trustees, and senior administrators on legal issues affecting the institution. ECU has a large and growing health sciences division, including a school of medicine, school of dental medicine, college of nursing, and college of allied health.

Among Payne’s accomplishments over her career as counsel to multiple universities, she has provided leadership on legal issues and policy development required during evolution of Title IX and other civil rights regulatory requirements, including enforcement procedures; actively advised or participated in numerous investigations; provided leadership on the legal component of one of the most robust enterprise risk management programs in the UNC system; and developed the university’s legal strategy for an innovative integration plan for its medical faculty practice of over 400 clinical providers with a regional hospital system’s physician practice.

Before ECU, Payne was university counsel for UNC Pembroke, serving as chief of staff, ethics liaison to the North Carolina Ethics Commission, and assistant secretary to the Board of Trustees. In 2003, she served briefly as interim legal counsel at UNC Wilmington while continuing her work at Pembroke. In the early years of her career, she practiced with private firms in Austin, Texas and Elizabethtown, North Carolina.

“The University of Rochester has a stellar academic reputation and the medical center’s mission of service to the region resonates with my own life’s work,” said Payne. “I am honored to have this opportunity to join President Mangelsdorf’s team as she builds on the University’s tradition of excellence.”

Payne is a longtime member of the National Association of College and University Attorneys and recently completed service on its board of directors. She has also served on the board of directors for the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and holds a law degree from the University of Texas at Austin.

“During the search process, Donna provided unique and impressive insights into key issues impacting both higher education and health care,” said Holly Crawford, co-chair of the search committee and senior vice president for administration and finance and CFO. “I’m confident that she is well-prepared to step into this important leadership role.”

“She has everything we sought in our next general counsel, including unquestioned integrity, a range of highly relevant experiences and demonstrated leadership. We are delighted she has decided to join us,” said Doug Phillips, search committee co-chair and senior vice president and chief investment officer. READ MORE

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