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HBS Prof. Named Head of Red Cross

By Lingbo Li, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard Business School professor Gail J. McGovern was named the new president and CEO of the American Red Cross yesterday.

McGovern said her chief goal in her new post will be to educate the American public about the mission of the Red Cross, emphasizing that the organization’s influence expands beyond times of major disaster.

Other changes she proposed include perfecting the Red Cross’s blood services and maintaining a steady stream of donations. The Red Cross currently faces a $200 million budget deficit.

With the help of education, McGovern said, “We can capture their heart and minds and hopefully some of their dollars.”

McGovern, a professor of management practice, was selected from a pool of 170 possible candidates, 20 of whom received interviews.

McGovern will be replacing Mary S. Elcano, the acting president. Elcano took the helm of the nonprofit after the previous president, Mark W. Everson, resigned after his affair with a subordinate was brought to the board’s attention.

Previously, McGovern has played leading roles in large companies, including AT&T and Fidelity Investments. McGovern joined Fidelity Investments in 1999, rising through the ranks to become president the following year.

McGovern is a trustee of Johns Hopkins University, where she helped raise $2 billion ahead of schedule for the school’s seven-year capital campaign, which has since set a new goal of $3.2 billion.

McGovern said that a large part of her strategy at the Red Cross to increase donations would center on encouraging donors to view giving to the organization as a continuing partnership.

Fellow Business School professor John T. Gourville said that McGovern was a “fantastic” colleague and a “great choice” to lead the Red Cross.

“She’s one of the people in the trenches,” Gourville said. “She’s the kind of person who before a class or conference, she’d be going over the nuts and bolts, figuring out things.”

Business School professor David E. Bell, described McGovern as “empathetic.”

“I think it’s within her personality to take on the kind of job that she’s doing now,” he said.

Business School professor of marketing Rohit Deshpande recalled how McGovern took the time in her first year to mentor junior faculty members. “It’s seldom you find people of such amazing accomplishments who are so humble,” he said.

About the Red Cross, he added, “They have no idea yet how lucky they are.”

—Staff writer Lingbo Li can be reached at

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