Frances Hesselbein and text: "In Memory of Frances Hesselbein"

In Memory of Frances Hesselbein

A letter from Director Julia Santucci on December 11, 2022: 

It is with great sadness that I write to inform you of the passing of Frances Hesselbein, our mentor, friend, and the namesake of the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Forum. Frances was an inspiration to all of us, and I am certain that we will all remember her many years of service and her lifelong commitment to values-based leadership. Her eternal optimism—as she frequently said, “even my blood type is B positive!”—serves as a beacon in these difficult times. 

It was a privilege to know Frances, and it is an honor to serve in my role as Director of the Hesselbein Forum. I am filled with gratitude for Frances and all that her legacy allows us to accomplish. The Frances Hesselbein Leadership Forum continues to advance Frances’ leadership philosophy through research and teaching. Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to meet with some of the alumni of our programs living in Washington, D.C., and I was thrilled to see how they are thriving in their personal and professional lives, and to hear them give credit to Hesselbein Forum programs for contributing to their success.  

I believe that the best way to honor Frances is to recommit ourselves to her creed – to serve is to live. This battle cry is at the center of all we do at the Forum, and I look forward to staying in contact with you about the many ways we are carrying forth Frances’ legacy. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if we can ever be of assistance. 

I know that each of you shares a personal connection to Frances, and I offer you my deepest condolences as we collectively mourn her loss. 

- Julia Santucci, Director of the Hesselbein Forum 

In Memory of Frances Hesselbein, Namesake and Chairman, Frances Hesselbein Leadership Forum

"Frances Hesselbein sitting at her desk, old black and white film photo"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. 

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. 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. 

One of the most highly respected experts in the field of contemporary leadership development, 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. 

"Frances Hesselbein on the cover of Business Week magazine"

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 the 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

The Hesselbein Forum, within the Johnson Institute at GSPIA, 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.

Tributes from Friends & Colleagues

"Patrick Gallagher headshot"“Frances’ actions and example shaped generations of leaders at a time when smart and sensible governance has never been more critical. And her personal credo — to serve is to live — infused her every step. At the University of Pittsburgh, we are honored to do our part to continue sharing her story and legacy. She was a beloved member of our University community, and I extend my deepest condolences to her family and many loved ones during this difficult time.”
Patrick Gallagher, University of Pittsburgh Chancellor

"Mark Nordenberg headshot"“Knowing and learning from Frances was one of the great privileges of my life. She taught me that leadership is not what you say or even what you do, but who you are. I am grateful for the many chances that I had to spend time with Frances, both to learn from her example and to enjoy her company."
Mark Nordenberg, Chancellor Emeritus, University of Pittsburgh 

"Carissa Slotterback headshot"“Frances Hesselbein inspired all of us with her ‘to serve is to live’ philosophy. She demonstrated this approach throughout her career — through her words, through her engagement with others and truly in all aspects of her life. She helped develop, amplify and demonstrate a conception of leadership that goes well beyond formal leadership positions and roles. She has truly helped all of us to understand that leadership is deeply personal and an act of love and care for others. We are so grateful host the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Forum at Pitt and GSPIA, as an enduring home for learning and engagement inspired by her work.” 
Carissa Slotterback, GSPIA Dean

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Donation Information

"Frances Hesselbein black and white"In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Forum online here. If you prefer to give by mail, checks can be made payable to "University of Pittsburgh," with "Hesselbein Forum" in the memo section, and sent to this address:

Nicole Madden Director of Development 
Graduate School of Public and International Affairs 
3418 Posvar Hall 
University of Pittsburgh 
Pittsburgh, PA 15260