Senior Fellows

The Charles F. Kettering Foundation has established an elite group of senior fellows to work with the foundation to advance our pro-inclusive democracy mission.

As we have started to implement our new strategic plan, we have built a roster of distinguished senior fellows to act as experts and thought leaders for the foundation. Our senior fellows represent the nation’s leading democracy thinkers and practitioners, drawn from both major parties and new emerging parties, the academy, government, public service, civil society, business, and journalism. Each is already engaged in an active body of work that aligns with our vision and mission to advance and defend democracy, speaking up and speaking out in defense of democracy.

We will build on the unique strengths, interests, and bases of experience of our senior fellows by engaging them in Kettering’s programs and initiatives in a variety of ways. Some will contribute to our new blog series, From Many, We, and others will be guests on our new podcast that will launch in early 2024. All will be involved in some of our public conversations as panelists or keynotes.

Johnnetta Betsch Cole is a noted anthropologist, educator, author, speaker, and consultant on diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion in workplaces. She has taught anthropology, women’s studies, and African American studies at several colleges and universities. Cole has served as the president of both Spelman College and Bennett College, the director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, and a senior consulting fellow at the Mellon Foundation. Cole was the first African American to chair the board of United Way of America. She served as the president and chair of the board of the National Council of Negro Women, Inc. Cole has served on numerous corporate boards and was the first woman appointed to the board of Coca-Cola Enterprises and the first Black woman appointed to Merck’s board of directors. She has authored, coauthored, and edited numerous books and has received many awards and 70 honorary degrees. In 2023, President Joe Biden presented Cole with a National Humanities Medal for her pioneering contributions to our nation’s cultural life. Throughout her career, Cole has addressed racism, sexism, and all other systems of inequality. She is a celebrated leader and mentor to many people of different identities and cultures.

Since graduating from the College of William and Mary in 1982 and the University of Chicago Law School in 1985, James Comey has been a prosecutor, defense lawyer, general counsel, teacher, writer, and leader. He most recently served in government as director of the FBI. His bestselling book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, was published in 2018 and made into a limited television series in 2020. His second book, Saving Justice: Truth, Transparency, and Trust, also a New York Times bestseller, was published in 2021. His latest book—his first work of fiction—is another bestseller: Central Park West, a legal thriller inspired by Comey’s long career in federal law enforcement, including his years in Manhattan as a mob prosecutor and later the chief federal prosecutor. Jim (as he is known to family and friends) and his wife, Patrice, live in Virginia and are the parents of five and grandparents of three (so far).

Steven Levitsky is David Rockefeller Professor of Latin American Studies and Professor of Government at Harvard University. He is also director of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard. His research focuses on democracy and authoritarianism, political parties, weak and informal institutions, and most recently, the crisis of democracy in the United States. He and Daniel Ziblatt are authors of How Democracies Die (2019), which was a New York Times bestseller and was published in 29 languages, and Tyranny of the Minority: Why American Democracy Reached the Breaking Point (2023). Levitsky has written or edited 11 other books, including Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America: Argentine Peronism in Comparative Perspective (2003), Competitive Authoritarianism: Hybrid Regimes after the Cold War (with Lucan Way, 2010), and Revolution and Dictatorship: The Violent Origins of Durable Authoritarianism (with Lucan Way, 2022). He has also written for The Atlantic, Brazil’s Folha de São Paulo, Foreign Affairs, Peru’s La República, the New Republic, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. Levitsky is currently writing a book with Lucan Way on the sources of global democratic resilience in the 21st century.

Chris Matthews is the former news anchor of Hardball with Chris Matthews on MSNBC, where he anchored all presidential elections from 1994 to 2020 and hosted panel discussions with analysts and political figures. Throughout his career, Matthews has kept faith in electoral politics, a love of democracy, and hope in the judgment of the American people. After serving with the Peace Corps in Africa, Matthews worked for Senator Frank Moss and the US Senate Budget Committee. From 1977-1980, he worked in the Carter White House, first as a staffer and then as a speechwriter to President Jimmy Carter. Following the 1980 election, Matthews served as administrative assistant to Speaker of the House Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill Jr. until 1986. In the late 1980s, Matthews left politics for journalism. He was a syndicated columnist and Washington bureau chief with the San Francisco Examiner, and then a national columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle. He is the author of eight books, including: Hardball: How Politics Is Played, Told by One Who Knows the Game; Kennedy & Nixon: The Rivalry that Shaped Postwar America; Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero; Tip and The Gipper: When Politics Worked; Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit; and This Country: My Life in Politics and History. Matthews holds a BA from the College of the Holy Cross, attended graduate school in economics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and holds 34 honorary degrees.

Maureen O’Connor was the tenth chief justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio and the first woman to lead the state judicial branch of government. She first joined the Ohio Supreme Court in 2003, becoming the 148th justice and giving the court its first-ever female majority. Upon her retirement from the court, O’Connor became the longest-serving statewide elected woman in Ohio history. O’Connor is a graduate of the Cleveland State University College of Law and a member of its hall of fame. O’Connor has led significant reforms and improvements in the Ohio judicial system and is a leader nationally. Her commitment to modernization of the courts across the state is unmatched. Since 2015, she has endowed Ohio local courts with more than $35 million to add and enhance technology. This funding has increased access to justice for litigants, defendants, and the public. Her foresight made Ohio a leader in its ability to continue to administer justice through the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. O’Connor has worked to improve fairness in the judicial system. She was selected by her peers in the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators to co-chair the National Task Force on Fines, Fees, and Bail Practices in 2016. She is past president of the national Conference of Chief Justices and former board chair of the National Center for State Courts. In retirement, she is spearheading Citizens Not Politicians, a constitutional amendment campaign to reform redistricting in Ohio that is slated for the 2024 ballot.

David Pepper is a lawyer, writer, political activist, former elected official, adjunct professor, and served as the chair of the Ohio Democratic Party from 2015 to 2021. In that role, he was engaged in numerous battles and extensive litigation over voter suppression and election laws in the Buckeye State, as well as reform efforts to enhance voting and end gerrymandering. Pepper is the author of Laboratories of Autocracy: A Wake-Up Call from Behind the Lines (2021) and Saving Democracy: A User’s Manual for Every American (2023). Both books discuss recent attacks on state level democracy and lay out the steps citizens can take to save it. He also teaches election and voting rights law as an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. Born and raised in Cincinnati, David is a fifth-generation Cincinnatian who served on the Cincinnati City Council from 2001 to 2005. David earned his BA magna cum laude from Yale University, where he was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, and later earned his JD from Yale Law School.

Christine Todd Whitman is president of the Whitman Strategy Group, a consulting firm that specializes in helping leading companies find innovative solutions to environmental challenges. Whitman served as the 50th and first woman governor of the State of New Jersey from 1994 until 2001. She also served in the cabinet of President George W. Bush as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency’s administration from January 2001 to June 2003. She is the author of a 2005 New York Times bestseller, It’s My Party Too: The Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America. Whitman also serves a number of nonprofit organizations: chair of the American Security Project, vice-chair of the Board of Trustees of the Eisenhower Fellowships, Trustee of the National World War II Museum, and is member of the board of directors of both the World Food Program USA and the Meridian Institute. She is co-chair of the following organizations: Forward Party, States United Democracy Center, Joint Ocean Commission Initiative Leadership Council, Aspen Institute K12 Climate Action Task Force, and National Institute for Civil Discourse. She is a founding member of the Climate Leadership Council.