Distinguished Alumna and Pitt Legacy Laureate, Frances Hesselbein, Passes Away

December 11, 2022

"Frances Hesselbein in black and white"PITTSBURGH, PA — December 11, 2022— The University of Pittsburgh, together with The Frances Hesselbein Leadership Forum and its Boards of Advisors, staff, and supporters, mourn the passing of Frances Hesselbein, Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, former CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA, and one of the most highly respected experts in the field of contemporary leadership development, who passed away peacefully on December 11, 2022, at the age of 107.

The values that Frances held dear are timeless, and her legacy will continue to demonstrate the vital importance of integrity, civic engagement and service at a time when smart and sensible leadership has never been more critical,” said Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “We continue to be honored that she chose Pitt as The Hesselbein Forum’s permanent home, where her legacy will include generations of Pitt students who will use this opportunity to make a powerful, positive difference in this world.”

Every morning prior to the pandemic, Hesselbein would leave her New York city apartment and travel six blocks south to her office, crowded to the ceiling with twenty-two honorary doctorate degrees and historical memorabilia, including photographs of a visit to Washington, D.C. with former President Obama and the First Lady; the Presidential Medal of Freedom citation awarded to her by former President William Clinton; mementos from her days as CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA.; and more than 35 books she authored or co-authored, published in 21 languages.

Hesselbein was a native of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and attended the University of Pittsburgh Junior College at Johnstown. Her more than 70-year career in public service inspired the creation of the University of Pittsburgh’s Hesselbein Global Academy for Student Leadership and Civic Engagement in 2009, and, in 2015, the University Library System became home to the Frances Hesselbein Archives.

In 2017, the University of Pittsburgh, in collaboration with Hesselbein, established The Frances Hesselbein Leadership Forum in the Johnson Institute for Responsible Leadership at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA).The Hesselbein Forum provides a variety of opportunities for fostering and growing leadership including the Hesselbein Lecture Series, the Leadership Program in International Affairs, the Hesselbein Executive Coach program and the publication of the Leader to Leader journal.

Among other accolades, Hesselbein held an honorary doctoral degree from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA) and was a distinguished alumna and a Pitt Legacy Laureate.

Hesselbein was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honor, in 1998. The award recognized her leadership as CEO of Girl Scouts of the United States of America from 1976 to 1990 as well as her role as the founding president of the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management.

In 2009, she became the first woman, and the first non-graduate, appointed to the Class of 1951 Chair for the Study of Leadership at the United States Military Academy at West Point, where she taught for two years.

Hesselbein was editor-in-chief of the award-winning quarterly journal Leader to Leader. She was the co-editor of 35 books in 21 languages and the author of “Hesselbein on Leadership,” “My Life in Leadership” and “More Hesselbein on Leadership.”

“My journey—lifelong learning, civic engagement and ‘to serve is to live’ philosophy—began long ago at my beloved University of Pittsburgh and continues to this day,” said Hesselbein.