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Frances Hesselbein, former CEO of Girl Scouts, dies at 107

The University of Pittsburgh announced Sunday that Frances Hesselbein, who rose through the Girl Scout ranks and eventually became the organization’s first CEO, died at the age of 107. After her time with the Girl Scouts, she founded a career-focused nonprofit and was a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient.

Born in 1915, Hesselbein began her career in the Girl Scouts in the 1940s, when she helped a neighbor by becoming a 30-girl troop leader, the Girl Scouts said in a blog post on Sunday. The Girl Scouts said that eventually, what was meant to be just a favor became nearly a decade of service before she took on more responsibility within the organization.

His motto, according to the University of Pittsburgh, was “To serve is to live.”

Francis Hesselbein
Frances Hesselbein, former CEO of the Girl Scouts, pictured in 1978.

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“We are forever grateful for Ms. Hesselbein’s service to our movement, her community and her country,” the Girl Scouts said in a statement. “Through her exemplary life’s work, she served as a source of inspiration and an embodiment of what it really meant to be a Girl Scout.”

The Girl Scouts said in 1976 she was named CEO, the first woman to hold that title within the organization, noting that she created a planning and management system to unite troops around the world, and to push Edited the manual of the organization in an effort to To encourage girls to pursue STEM careers.

With the creation of Daisy, Hesselbein also expanded the reach of the Girl Scouts—troops for young children. The Girl Scouts said that that effort created “a more inclusive organization” and tripled the organization’s BIPOC membership.

Francis Hesselbein
Frances Hesselbein pictured with Girl Scouts in 1978.

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She remained the CEO till 1990. In 1998, she was appointed by then-President Bill Clinton to the Girl Scouts and the non-profit Peter F. The Drucker Foundation was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work in both.

The University of Pittsburgh, which Hesselbein attended, awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2001, and in 2009, created the Hesselbein Global Academy for Student Leadership and Civic Engagement in honor of his work, the school said.

In 2017, it also created the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Forum, which conducts research on leadership and public service skills. In addition, she was the co-editor of over 35 books published in over 20 different languages, the university said.

“Frances Hesselbein inspired us all with the philosophy ‘to serve is to live’. She demonstrated this attitude throughout her career – through her words, her engagement with others and indeed through her life.” in all aspects of it,” said Carissa Slaughterback, dean of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, in a statement.

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