The U.S. Senate has confirmed two Trinity alumnae, M. Patricia Smith ’74 and Ellen Gloninger Murray ’70, to serve in top posts in the administration of President Barack Obama. Smith was confirmed by the Senate on February 4 to serve as Solicitor of the U.S. Department of Labor, the third highest position in the department. Murray was confirmed on February 11 by the Senate to serve as Assistant Secretary for Financial Resources at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Smith most recently served as the commissioner of the New York State Department of Labor and co-chair of New York State’s Economic Security sub-cabinet. She oversaw the New York State Department of Labor with an annual budget of $4 billion, with 3,700 employees in 80 offices throughout the state and served as advisor to Governor David Paterson on workforce and labor policy. Previously, she served for 20 years in the Labor Bureau of the New York State Attorney General’s Office, the last eight as bureau chief. Her responsibilities included representing the New York State Department of Labor and the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board in all state and federal litigation and advancing an affirmative docket enforcing New York’s labor laws. In 1996 and 1997, she argued and won two Employment Retirement Income Security Act cases before the United States Supreme Court. Before joining the Office of the Attorney General, she worked for a variety of legal services organizations representing unemployment claimants, minimum wage workers, workers in federal job training programs and job seekers. She majored in political science at Trinity and graduated with honors. She earned her law degree, cum laude, from the New York University School of Law.
In nominating Smith, along with several other key nominations, President Obama said, “I’m confident that these distinguished individuals will use their unique talents to help us take on the important work that lies ahead. Each of the people announced today brings a commitment to public service and a dedication to meeting the goals of my administration and I look forward to working with them in the months ahead.”
In announcing Murray’s confirmation, Trinity classmate Kathleen Sebelius ’70, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said that “Ellen Murray brings over ten years of experience as staff director for the United States Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and related agencies. She has extensive knowledge of the HHS budget, and will be a tremendous asset to our Department. I am delighted that the Senate has confirmed such a talented and committed leader.”
Murray has served as staff director for the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and related agencies since 1999. In that capacity, she oversaw the annual $150 billion Labor Health and Human Services Appropriations bill. Prior to her tenure with the Senate, she served in both the budget office and the Office of the General Counsel at HHS. Previously, Murray served as an economist at the Social Security Administration. She majored in economics at Trinity and earned her law degree from the George Mason University School of Law.
A fourth Trinity graduate, Susan Flood Burk ’76, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in June 2009 to serve as Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation, with the rank of Ambassador at the U.S. Department of State.