Laura Wilkinson MBA ’85, JD ’86 is a senior director and associate general counsel at PayPal, Inc. and leads the company’s Global Antitrust/Competition Center of Excellence. She has more than 35 years of experience in antitrust law focusing on mergers, acquisitions, and strategic alliances. Before joining PayPal, Laura was a law firm partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges, and she began her career as an attorney at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
She has been very active as a Cornell alumna. She was the first African American to chair the President’s Council of Cornell Women (PCCW), a founding member of the Cornell Black Lawyers Alumni Network (CBLAN), a member of the Cornell Law School Dean’s Advisory Council, and the chair of Cornell Mosaic. She recently completed serving two four-year terms on the Cornell University Board of Trustees.
How did you start your journey as a Cornell volunteer?
While attending Cornell as a graduate student, I was very active in campus organizations include the Black Law Students Association, Black Graduate Business Students Association, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. Those experiences naturally transitioned into a continued involvement with students and administrators on campus and membership in the Cornell Black Alumni Association (CBAA) and the Cornell Law School Alumni Association. However, my significant volunteer engagement began after I was selected to join the President’s Council of Cornell Women (PCCW). My volunteer work with that distinguished group of Cornell alumnae was impactful, and I eventually served as chair of PCCW.
Is there a Cornell program or initiative that is near and dear to your heart?
I was a founding member of the Cornell Black Lawyers Alumni Network (CBLAN). This organization brings together Cornell alumni lawyers, whether they are graduates of Cornell’s undergraduate colleges, law school, or other professional schools. It warms my heart to see that CBLAN has blossomed into a vibrant alumni network, hosting valuable programming and inspiring the formation of other similar alumni network organizations, including the Latino Lawyers of Cornell.
What has been your favorite volunteer moment?
In November of 2017, while I served as chair of Cornell Mosaic, along with CBAA, CBLAN, and the Cornell Club of Washington DC, we jointly hosted a weekend of activities centered around a visit to the then-newly opened Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). We were able to bring together a diverse group of alumni for a memorable weekend of social, educational, and cultural activities and celebrated the many Cornell connections to the museum. We also awarded the inaugural Cornell Mosaic Medal of Distinction to then-Dean of the Engineering School Lance Collins. I believe that the culminating event at the Smithsonian museum was the largest alumni event outside of Ithaca.
What has motivated your lifelong philanthropy?
Growing up in Brooklyn, NY, I’m the first in my family to go to college. I was blessed to obtain an Ivy League education at the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell. As a result, I feel deeply committed to giving back through volunteer service and philanthropy. This is why I began my career with government service. After shifting to the private sector, I’ve taken on volunteer leadership roles in Cornell alumni organizations and other nonprofit organizations. I am proud of my efforts to launch the PCCW Leadership Scholarship Fund (for sophomores, juniors, or seniors who have exhibited leadership at Cornell), and the CBLAN George Washington Fields LLB 1890 Scholarship Fund (named for the formerly enslaved man who was the first African American graduate of Cornell Law School). In terms of philanthropy, I think that donations of any size are an essential way to show appreciation and support; that is why I always encourage people to develop a habit of giving back at a level that is comfortable for them.
How has Cornell impacted who you are today?
Cornell has become a big part of my family’s legacy. My brother, Frank Wilkinson ’85, and I attended Cornell during the same time. In addition, one of his daughters and her husband are Cornell alumni as well—Blisse Wilkinson Ufomata ’11, MBA ’21, and Ruke Ufomata ’09, MEng ’10.
In addition, of course, my Cornell education is the foundation for my career. I obtained my JD/MBA degrees at a time when pursuing both degrees was less common. Both disciplines have been critical to my success as an antitrust lawyer in government, law firms, and corporate settings. I also believe that the leadership skills that I developed as a Cornell student and alumni volunteer leader have been important to my professional development and have influenced my commitment to servant leadership. It has been my experience that when you give back, you receive much more in return.