Susan H. Alexander

Board Experience

Invacare Corporation

Nominating and Governance Committee, Regulatory and Compliance Committee

Q & A

How did you get involved with Invacare’s board? Did networking play a role?

Yes, I attended the DirectWomen program a number of years ago because I was interested in joining the board of a public company. There, I was fortunate to meet Cynthia Dow from Russell Reynolds who later recalled our meeting and recommended me to Invacare.

It seems that both the biotech and medical technology fields are rapidly evolving. What is it like to work in such a rapidly changing field?

Oh, it’s thrilling. That’s what makes it fun and so gratifying. You really do have patients at the center of everything that you do. Innovations in science and devices make a very meaningful and real difference in people’s lives. It is fun to be part of that. And a changing landscape continues to mean that there are no shortages of strategic and operational issues to consider. I don’t think there’s a better way to be engaged professionally.

What have you learned about what it’s like to be a director since becoming a director? How have you grown into the position?

I am always surprised when I change chairs. That small difference in point of view and perspective does change what you bring. As a lawyer, I’ve had the privilege to work with different boards and see what works well and sometimes what doesn’t. And that has helped me to bring what I think is the best of these boards’ perspectives to Invacare. Seeing how a board functions and engages when I’m a member, as opposed to an advisor, also has changed the way that I go back and act as an advisor.

You mentioned that, as a lawyer, you had the opportunity to observe what went well and what didn’t. What are some of the things that you see as causing a board to work well or function effectively?

Well I think it starts with respect and regard for the other people at the table and making sure that every voice is heard. I think in all settings, including the board room, diversity of perspective and thought is valuable. It helps the discussion go in directions that are broader and more innovative and more complete and comprehensive than they might have otherwise been. When you have a collection of skilled and experienced people on a board, they are there for a reason, and a board is at its best when it reaps the full benefit of that contribution.

What are your short-term and long-term goals for yourself?

I obviously very much enjoy the work that I do and how my role at work changes, so seeing my role continue to expand and take on new responsibilities and solve new challenges is exciting. And the same is true in the board room. I have a full plate right now: I’m fully engaged at work and I’m on two company boards right now and a not for profit board, but over time I can imagine that my emphasis might change from the operating role that I have now.

Do you have any final general advice for aspiring directors?

I think it’s like anything that you want to do. First, I think it’s good to ask yourself if you really want to become a director and then also what you can bring to the position. And then it really is about networking and making that match between the skill and perspective that you bring with the need that you find in a particular organization.


Susan H. Alexander is Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary of Biogen Idec. Biogen Idec is a global Fortune 500 biotechnology company focused on discovering, developing and marketing therapies for the treatment of neurological disorders and other serious diseases. Ms. Alexander is a member of the executive team responsible for Biogen Idec’s strategic direction and management. She also advises the Biogen Idec Board of Directors and is responsible for the company’s legal and corporate compliance functions.

Prior to joining Biogen Idec, Ms. Alexander served as Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of PAREXEL International, a global provider of services to pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device companies, as General Counsel of IONA Technologies, an international integration software solution provider, and as Counsel to Cabot Corporation, a global specialty chemical company. Ms. Alexander was also previously a partner in the law firms of Hinckley, Allen & Snyder and Fine & Ambrogne.

Ms. Alexander currently serves on the Business Leadership Council of Wellesley College, the Boston University Law School Alumni Executive Council and the Board of Directors of the New England Legal Foundation, She has previously served as Chair of the Middlesex Community College Foundation, Trustee of the Episcopal Divinity School, Secretary of the Association of Clinical Research Organizations, and as a Director of the Cabot Corporation Foundation.

Ms. Alexander received her J.D. degree from Boston University School of Law and her B.A. degree from Wellesley College.