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CC President Jill Tiefenthaler Named Head of National Geographic Society

Colorado College President Jill Tiefenthaler, who has led the college since 2011, has been named the new chief executive officer of National Geographic Society. She will continue leading Colorado College until she assumes her new role in August 2020.

The National Geographic Society says Tiefenthaler’s experience as a dynamic innovator and nationally recognized college president and educator will ensure it 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.

“Jill brings to National Geographic an impressive record of success as an innovator and leader,” says 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.”

Susie Burghart ’77, chair of the Colorado College Board of Trustees, shared gratitude for Tiefenthaler’s strategic vision and many achievements at CC. 

“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to express the college’s profound thanks to Jill for all she has done for CC, and congratulate her on her new role with one of the world’s most respected and important organizations. We are sorry to lose her, but proud that a member of the CC family will be leading the National Geographic Society at such a critical time for the future of the planet,” says Burghart.

“Jill has provided strong, visionary leadership to the college for nine years. She began by listening carefully to the CC community and translating what she learned into a strategic plan that built on CC’s unique strengths and set an ambitious path for the future. That plan, Building on the Block, has guided our decisions and is in no small part responsible for the remarkable success the college has enjoyed in recent years.”

Under Tiefenthaler’s leadership, CC has achieved significant advances: construction of the expanded and renovated Charles L. Tutt Library, the East Campus residential complex, and the Adam F. Press Fitness Center; CC’s alliance with the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center; unparalleled fundraising success through the Building on Originality campaign; renovation of the El Pomar Sports Center, South Hall, Cutler Hall, and the William I. Spencer Center; and the campus’ achievement of carbon neutrality, to be celebrated this month. She has successfully driven increases in resources for faculty and students, diversity of the faculty and student body, and selectivity in admissions.

More recently, Tiefenthaler has led the planning of Robson Arena, a new space on campus for the Creativity and Innovation program, and the college’s efforts to become an antiracist institution.

“Serving as your president for the past nine years has been the greatest honor and joy of my long career in higher education,” said Tiefenthaler in a message to students, faculty, staff, alumni, and parents. “While CC is envied for its distinctive Block Plan and special location, since my arrival in 2011, I have known that our greatest asset is our people. Our staff, faculty, and trustees are innovative and talented, and most importantly, they always put students and our core mission at the center of their work. Our students and alumni are independent, curious, and adventurous leaders who distinguish the college by the impact they have on the world.” 

Regarding her upcoming role, she said, “I am so thrilled to take on this leadership role at the National Geographic Society at this exciting time. 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.” Tiefenthaler is a leading scholar in the field of the economics of higher education, and is regularly called on to speak about the value of the liberal arts. After receiving her M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from Duke University, she joined the faculty of Colgate University in 1991, where she served as department chair, associate dean of the faculty, and senior adviser to the president. She then served as provost and professor of economics at Wake Forest University, where she led the implementation of the university’s strategic plan and key initiatives, including diversity in admission, establishing new models for enhanced interdisciplinary research and collaboration, and integrating the university’s undergraduate and graduate business schools.

Tiefenthaler’s appointment as National Geographic Society’s CEO culminates an extensive, global search, including a review of hundreds of candidates. She will become the society’s first female chief executive officer. 

CC’s Board of Trustees will determine a search process, interim leadership, and timeline in February. The board will then collaborate with campus and alumni leadership groups on the search.