Remembering Frances R. Hesselbein

Frances R. Hesselbein

When Frances Hesselbein joined Juniata’s board of trustees in 1988, she was the chief executive officer of the Girl Scouts of the USA. Under her 14 years of leadership, the number of volunteers and members increased dramatically as Mrs. Hesselbein focused on improving diversity and modernizing the organization’s mission of empowering young women.

Her introduction to the Girl Scout leadership came about while Mrs. Hesselbein was living with her family in Johnstown, Pa., during the 1940s. A local troop was at risk of being disbanded for lack of a volunteer leader. Her agreement to substitute as a leader for six weeks was the beginning of a lifetime passion for non-profit leadership.

She was a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Points of Light Initiative Foundation, the only woman appointed to the committee by President George H. W. Bush in 1989. President George H.W. Bush named Mrs. Hesselbein to two panels on volunteerism and community service.

She served on many other nonprofit and private sector corporate boards, including the board of the Mutual of America Life Insurance Company, NY.

Mrs. Hesselbein stepped down as chief executive of the Girl Scouts in 1990 and became the founding president of the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Non-profit Management, later known as the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute, in Manhattan. The institute moved to the University of Pittsburgh and became the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Forum, offering a lecture series and executive coaching program.

She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States of America’s highest civilian honor, in 1998. The award recognized her leadership as chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of the USA, as well as her role in leading social sector organizations toward excellence in performance through her work at the Drucker Foundation.

In 2015, Fortune Magazine ranked her 37th in its list of the world’s 50 greatest leaders and was the author of books including “Hesselbein on Leadership” (2002) and “My Life in Leadership” (2011).

Mrs. Hesselbein continued to serve as a Juniata College trustee through Aug. 31, 2003 and was presented with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree in 1990 at Juniata College’s 114th Commencement, where she delivered the address.

She shared with the members of the Class of 1990, “It is the time for the graduates of our liberal arts institutions to send their young men and women into a world of turbulence and bright promise, able to adapt to change, ready to walk through doors as they open, confident in their ability to navigate ambiguity and bringing their new vision, values, and goals wherever they journey.”

Frances R. Hesselbein

Dec. 11, 2022 — Frances was a proud native of Johnstown, Pa., a town she described as a “big steel, big coal, big labor, big heart” town. She led Girl Scout Troop 17 in Johnstown, Pa., and went on to lead the Girl Scouts of America. She was preceded in death by her husband, John, siblings, and son. Frances is survived by her grandson.