Cornell University

November 8 2012

Saporta '74 Lecture on Tuesday

National Abortion Federation CEO speaking on "Choice in America"

Vicki Saporta '74At Cornell, Vicki Saporta '74 played guard on the women’s basketball team and skippered a boat on the sailing team.

At ILR, she was shaped by "marvelous" professors such as Jean McKelvey and Alice Cook.

"They were fabulous role models and trailblazers," said Saporta, who speaks at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in 305 Ives Hall.

"Choice in America: What it Means to be Pro-Choice Today" is free and open to the Cornell community.

Now president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation, the professional association of abortion providers in North America, Saporta had a different vision of her future in the 1970s.

"I was always going to be a lawyer," she said in an interview.

But, a summer of working for the Teamsters and two terms at the London School of Economics changed that, "I couldn’t wait to go to work for the labor movement."

An ILR Groat Award winner, she worked for 20 years with the Teamsters -- 10 as an organizer and 10 as director of organizing, the first woman to hold such a position with an international union.

When the National Abortion Federation invited her to take its top job, the match "made perfect sense," she said. "Really, it's about working in the progressive movement and advancing social justice."

Since 1995, she has been advocating for health care providers and organizations in North America that offer abortion care.

Saporta also raises funds and oversees 60 staffers, a $25 million budget and international responsibilities.

The job is a pressure cooker.

"I thrive on it," said Saporta, who lives in Washington, D.C., and relaxes by sailing the Chesapeake Bay.

Her advice for today's students?

"It's important to find something you love to do. Then, everything else seems to fall into place."

"I think it's important to do work that makes a difference in people's lives. People should find their niche and a way to do that."