Heidrick & Struggles Places First Female CEO at the National Geographic Society

January 16, 2020 – Executive search, leadership consulting and culture shaping services provider Heidrick & Struggles has recruited Jill Tiefenthaler as the first female CEO of the National Geographic Society. The search included a review of more than 100 candidates. She will succeed former Heidrick CEO Tracy R. Wolstencroft, who was placed in the top role of the National Geographic Society by Russell Reynolds Associates in 2018.

“Jill brings to National Geographic an impressive record of success as an innovator and leader,” said Jean Case, chairman of the board of trustees of the National Geographic Society. “Jill has the rare combination of strategic vision and execution skills, as well as depth of experience in building alliances, strengthening business models and advancing institutions to a new level. Jill’s skills, background and experience are perfectly suited to help the National Geographic Society further extend its reach and impact for many years to come.”

Dr. Tiefenthaler’s experience as a dynamic innovator and nationally recognized college president and educator will ensure the National Geographic Society has the leadership it needs to build on its 132-year mission of using the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of the world. Throughout her career, Dr. Tiefenthaler has been able to drive complex and dynamic organizations forward, securing the financial support they have needed and respecting the cultures and fundamentals that have made them successful. She has also fostered environments where growth and new thinking is celebrated and where the next generation can make their own mark.

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Most recently, Dr. Tiefenthaler was president of Colorado College since 2011. In this role, she helped set a new direction for the school, executed the most ambitious fundraising campaign in the college’s history and developed and implemented a comprehensive strategic plan that has expanded and cultivated an engaged and globally connected academic community. Before that, she was provost at Wake Forest University where she redesigned the admission process to include the SAT optional policy, integrated the university’s undergraduate and graduate schools, established the Institute for Public Engagement and the Humanities Institute and implemented “Living Our Values,” a plan to strengthen residential life and campus vibrancy. Dr. Tiefenthaler began her academic career at Colgate University, where she served from 1991 to 2007.

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“I am so thrilled to take on this leadership role at the National Geographic Society at this exciting time,” said Dr. Tiefenthaler. “Given its unparalleled global reputation, strong board, dedicated staff, bold explorers and storytellers and new partnership with Disney through National Geographic Partners, the Society has never been better positioned to pursue its mission to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world.”


Russell Reynolds Associates Moves Former Heidrick CEO to No. 2 Post at National Geographic
Executive recruiting at times can make strange bedfellows. Russell Reynolds Associates recently placed Heidrick & Struggles’ chairman Tracy R. Wolstencroft as president and CEO of the National Geographic Society. Mr. Wolstencroft served from 2014 to 2017 as the president and CEO of Heidrick & Struggles, leading the firm through a transformation that continues today.


The National Geographic Society is a global non-profit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 14,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content.

Social Impact

Heidrick & Struggles’ social impact practice prides itself in providing sophisticated advice and counsel to the some of the world’s most impactful institutions. Areas of specialization cover the following sectors internationally: associations, culture and arts, education markets, foundations and philanthropy, government and policy, higher education, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and public and private schools.

“Finding effective leadership in these sectors has never been more critical, which is why non-profit, social enterprise and education executive search services are necessary for an organization’s growth,” Heidrick & Struggles said. “The emergence of new technologies and the creation and expansion of these markets requires aggressive, strategic organizational leadership paired with strong financial acumen. Heidrick & Struggles’ deep network of practice experts connect executives from Chicago to Shanghai – providing the most comprehensive leadership strategy expertise in the industry.”

Related: Kittleman & Associates Seeks Leaders for Two Key Denver Non-Profits

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor  – Hunt Scanlon Media

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