Robert Mallett grew up in Houston, Texas one of five children surrounded by a large extended family. His parents, a steel worker and homemaker, grounded their children with a strong sense of self and showed them how to live productive and useful lives. They taught Robert and his siblings good manners, the importance of thriftiness, and the value of hard work.
Robert earned an undergraduate degree from Morehouse College where he was a Charles E. Merrill Overseas Scholar his junior year. After graduation he continued his education at Harvard Law School. In the summer between college and law school, he earned spending money as a baggage handler for Delta Airlines. Growing up, Robert mowed yards and did other sweat-inducing jobs, but being a baggage handler took hard work to a new level. While Robert had met and known many working class men and women growing up, he had never been their colleague in the way he was at Delta. While the job frequently required more brawn than brains, Robert says the lessons he learned that summer could fill a book.
After graduating from law school in 1982, Robert first clerked for a federal appellate court judge and then joined the Washington, D.C. office of New York law firm Kaye, Scholer. This paved the way to an appointment as senior legislative counsel to Senator Lloyd Bentsen. Following an exciting four years on Capitol Hill, Robert served as Washington’s City Administrator and Deputy Mayor of Operations. Robert says this was the hardest job he ever held because the demands of the position were relentless, exacerbated by the financial austerity during his tenure. Even so, managing in local government taught him organizational behavior, the importance of goal-setting and measurement, motivational techniques, financial statement analysis, the value of communications and messaging, and a litany of other skills that serve him well to this day.
During the Clinton Administration, Robert served as Deputy Secretary and later as Acting Secretary at the U.S. Commerce Department. While at Commerce, Robert seized opportunities to advocate for American businesses abroad. After a stint as a Visiting Professor at Harvard, Robert went on to become a Senior Vice President and Corporate Officer at Pfizer where he also served as President of the Pfizer Foundation. During this period, Pfizer was instrumental in founding the Infectious Diseases Institute in Uganda, a scientific and medical center of excellence in Africa that is now self-sustaining. Working to help improve the lives of the African people was the main catalyst for his current role as President and CEO of Africare, a leading non-governmental organization committed to addressing African development by working in partnership with African people to build sustainable, healthy, and productive communities.
Currently in the second year at the helm of Africare, Robert believes his priorities are clear: strengthen development and raise money, focus on management and increase operational excellence, and develop and improve Africare’s workforce in the United States and Africa. Africare’s programs include some of the most innovative work in development today, especially in the areas of nutrition, food security, and maternal and child health. Partnering with ExxonMobil and the National Basketball Association (NBA), Africare is now in the second year of the Power Forward program using basketball to develop health literacy and life skills among Nigerian youth.
Throughout the years, Robert has spent substantial time behind the scenes nurturing young talent. A special source of pride for him is the large number of former staff members and mentees he worked with along the way that are still in touch with him, eager to share their successes. Robert has also lent his expertise to numerous nonprofits, working to support their key missions locally, nationally, and globally.
In his free time, Robert enjoys fine food, wine, and art. He balances his epicurean tendencies with four days a week in the gym, although he admits his love of food and wine often seems to take priority. He frequents galleries and museums during his travels and has a broad and eclectic art collection. He is a patron to a few young African American artists whose work he particularly admires.