Every Friday, we choose an alum who has been making headlines—for better or for worse.
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Elisse Walter ’71: A Wall Street watchdog becomes top dog.

“Standing about five feet tall, [Elisse] Walter was once known to sing Broadway musicals in the office and has a large collection of exotic shoes,” the Wall Street Journal reports. Now she is poised to step into the shoes of her longtime boss and sing the lead role. But it’s not clear how long Walter’s name will remain at the top of the marquee.

President Barack Obama this week named Walter to head the Securities and Exchange Commission when its current chair, Mary Schapiro, steps down on December 14. Since Walter is already an SEC commissioner, she can serve without Senate confirmation through December 2013.

Walter earned a degree in applied mathematics from Yale College in 1971—the very first class to graduate women—before picking up a law degree from Harvard. She has spent her career working in financial regulation, often alongside or under Schapiro. BusinessWeek calls her “Schapiro’s closest confidant and behind-the-scenes adviser,” and Walter is generally expected to stay the course (although the Journal says some insiders see her as taking a tougher regulatory stance than Schapiro).

How long Walter will choose to maintain that stance is an open question. Remaining SEC chair for more than a year would require a potentially tough confirmation hearing. Meanwhile, she’ll head a commission that, without Schapiro, will be evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, likely hampering the agency’s ability to carry out the Dodd-Frank financial reforms. And at age 62—five years older than Schapiro—Walter already has confided to her staff that she is looking forward to retirement,” BusinessWeek says.

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