In 2006, while Ralph Martin was acting as office managing partner of legacy Bingham McCutchen’s Boston office, he was invited by Northeastern University to serve on the search committee to select a new president. Little did he know at the time, he would later become NU’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel, a role he’s held since 2011.

Two years after serving on the search committee, Ralph was asked to join the Northeastern University Board of Trustees, where he became deeply impressed with NU’s mission-driven leadership team and its commitment to experiential learning. When the university’s then general counsel moved to another role, Ralph offered the university President some perspective about how to think about filling the position. During that conversation, the President asked “what about you?”

“I told him I was happy in my current role,” said Ralph, “but the conversation evolved into a discussion about the university’s mission and how I would be a contributor on both the business and strategy sides. For me, it was too good of an opportunity.”

Ralph took the job. In his current capacity as senior vice president and general counsel, Ralph serves on the eight-member senior leadership team, which directs the overall strategic direction of the university.

“It’s been even better than I thought,” he said. “I’m having fun being engaged at a high level in many different ways.”

Ralph’s deep roots in Boston—as a former federal prosecutor, Suffolk County District Attorney, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, and managing partner at Bingham McCutchen—have served him well in his current role.
“When I came here,” he said, “I was given responsibility for the Institutional Master Plan (IMP),” a regulatory process that large institutions are required to undergo with the city to designate contemplated real estate uses and developments. The process required constant and intensive engagement with the city and community groups to make sure that the university’s aspirations were properly balanced against the concerns of the city and adjoining neighborhoods. By the time that Northeastern’s IMP was approved in 2014, the university had received approval for one million square feet of new development.

Ralph oversees an in-house team of 10 lawyers, and is also responsible for compliance, risk management, city and community engagement, and public safety. This includes a highly trained police department made up of 60 officers—deputized by the sheriff’s department—who patrol Northeastern property and adjoining neighborhoods.

During his time at Bingham, Ralph was heavily involved in the Boston community, and he has retained a high level of involvement. He chairs The Partnership, Inc., an organization that provides research, training, and consulting services to Greater Boston businesses to attract, train, and retain professionals of color. He also serves on the boards of Boston Children’s Hospital and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.

And he also makes time for fun.

“I love being out on my boat,” said Ralph. “I’m also a ‘gym rat’ and work out five days a week. I’m in fighting shape. Life is great.”

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