Over a long career in healthcare and LGBTQIA advocacy, Nicole Greenidge-Hoskins (’91), general counsel of the Human Rights Campaign, has been on the hunt for justice.
When Nicole Greenidge-Hoskins (’91) visited South Africa as a child, she and her family were exempt from the country’s apartheid laws, including a mandatory curfew, even though they are black.
Because of her father’s job as the United Nations Development Programme resident representative to Swaziland, the family was designated "honorary white."
“The injustice, inequality, and inequity were abundantly clear to me,” she remembers.
And she soon learned injustice wasn’t limited to any particular geography. After living throughout Africa, including in Zambia, Botswana, Liberia, and Swaziland (now eSwatini), Greenidge-Hoskins’ West Indian parents decided to take their two daughters to the United States for high school. They looked for communities with strong public-school systems and ended up in Scarsdale, New York. The culture shock that came with the continental shift was “extraordinary,” she says.
“I was called the n-word for the first time in my life,” Greenidge-Hoskins recalls. “We ended up with good white friends—all sorts of friends, as we had all around the world—but, make no mistake about it, we experienced discrimination.”
Raised in a family dedicated to service—her mother was a teacher—Greenidge-Hoskins committed her own life to the pursuit of justice, a pursuit she has continued through a career and volunteer work in healthcare and LGBTQIA advocacy, including in her latest role as senior vice president and general counsel of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRCF), which work on behalf of LGBTQIA equality.
In 1982, Greenidge-Hoskins enrolled at Brown University. She studied international relations, marched in protests calling for more diversity among faculty members, and always planned to attend law school.
She chose Boston University School of Law because of the excellent education it afforded, even though it meant living apart from her husband for three years (the pair had moved to Cleveland after graduating from Brown).
“Our phone bill was as big as my rent bill,” she jokes.
At BU Law, Greenidge-Hoskins was active in the Black Law Students Association and participated in the Civil Litigation Clinical Program. She particularly enjoyed courses with former dean Colin S. Diver and Professors Maria O’Brien Hylton and Tracey Maclin, among others. She also was selected for the prestigious Barbara C. Jordan (’59) Scholarship, named for an alumna who became the first southern black woman elected to Congress. The award came during a challenging time for Greenidge-Hoskins: Her father and sister-in-law both died while she was in law school.
“It was tremendously meaningful to be recognized for my hard work in an extraordinarily difficult time,” she says. “The fact that it was Barbara Jordan meant so much more. She was a fighter committed to civil rights; she was a pioneer; I believe I’m made very much in that vein.”
After a brief stint at a law firm, Greenidge-Hoskins joined the US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services general counsel’s office in 1995. The role—and the healthcare sector—suited her. She went on to work as deputy general counsel and general counsel in the DC public hospital system and later at the Whitman-Walker Clinic (now Whitman-Walker Health), which focuses on LGBTQIA health and wellness and where she had volunteered as a pro bono attorney. She was recruited to oversee the clinic’s implementation of the HIPAA privacy regulations by Robert Falk, whom she had worked with at DC General Hospital.
“Over the years, I had seen her manage complete chaos on really bet-the-farm issues,” remembers Falk, now the general counsel of the anti-tobacco organization Truth Initiative. “She can just plow through and is very methodical and very thoughtful in terms of how she approaches things.”
When Falk left Whitman-Walker, he helped Greenidge-Hoskins move into his role as general counsel. Years later, as he was planning to leave the Human Rights Campaign and Greenidge-Hoskins was looking for a new opportunity after working at healthcare provider MedStar Health and pharmacy network Mirixa Corporation, the two connected again.
“I developed a list of people I thought [HRC] should talk to, and Nicole was on the top of my list,” Falk says. “She’s somebody I respect. I trust her with the organizations I care about.”
In February 2018, Greenidge-Hoskins took over as the top in-house attorney at the Human Rights Campaign. Joni Madison, HRC’s chief operating officer and chief of staff, called Greenidge-Hoskins a “professional filled with incredible integrity.”
As general counsel, Greenidge-Hoskins oversees all legal issues related to HRC and HRCF’s business operations—everything from corporate governance matters to contracts—but she sees her role as integral to the organizations’ broader missions.
“I say to people, even on my worst day, I love working here,” she says. “This work aligns with my personal commitment to advancing civil rights and social justice. I find it tremendously meaningful.”
Throughout her life, Greenidge-Hoskins says she has seen and experienced first-hand that the world is not a just place. But that doesn’t mean she thinks it’s hopeless.
“For change to occur, people have to be in the fight,” she says. “And I am in the fight every day.”
On March 26, BU Law will recognize Nicole Greenidge-Hoskins with the DC Public Service Award, an annual award that honors an alum in the Washington, DC, area who has demonstrated exemplary work in the public service area. Click here for more information and to register.