Celebrating visionary women leaders

Visionary Leader Award

The Helen G. Drinan Visionary Leader Award

In 2020, the Institute established an annual Visionary Leader Award to celebrate a woman leader who embodies our vision of manifesting equity in leadership in our lifetime. The award is presented each year at the Simmons Leadership Conference in honor of Simmons University’s eighth president, Helen G. Drinan, and her 12 years of distinguished service.

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2024 Winner: Thasunda Brown Duckett

Thasunda Brown Duckett, President and Chief Executive Officer of TIAA

Thasunda Brown Duckett is President and Chief Executive Officer of TIAA, a leading provider of secure retirements and outcome-focused investment solutions to millions of people and thousands of institutions.

As TIAA’s CEO, Duckett leads a company whose mission is defined by financial inclusion and opportunity – goals and values she has upheld throughout her career. Duckett joined TIAA in 2021 after serving as Chief Executive Officer of Chase Consumer Banking, where she oversaw a banking network with more than $600 billion in deposits and 50,000 employees. Previously, she was the CEO of Chase Auto Finance and National Retail Sales Executive for Chase Mortgage Banking. Earlier in her career, she was a Director of Emerging Markets at Fannie Mae. Read more about Thasunda.

The award was presented at the 2024 Simmons Leadership Conference on April 3, 2024.

2023 Winner: Indra Nooyi

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Indra Nooyi, former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo

Indra Nooyi, former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo,
is the recipient of the 2023 Helen G. Drinan Visionary Leader Award.
Nooyi was the chief architect of Performance with Purpose, PepsiCo’s pledge to do what’s right for the business by being responsive to the needs of the world around it. As part of Performance with Purpose, PepsiCo was focused on delivering sustained growth by expanding its portfolio to include more nutritious products, limiting its environmental footprint, and empowering its associates and people in the communities it serves. Read more

2022 Winner: Sheila Lirio Marcelo

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Sheila Lirio Marcelo, Co-Founder and CEO of Proof of Learn and Founder of Care.com

Marcelo founded Care.com in 2006 and served as CEO until 2020. Care.com is the world’s largest online destination for finding and managing reliable family care—addressing the needs of 35 million people in 20 countries. In 2021, Marcelo co-founded Proof of Learn, an online education platform. Born and raised in the Philippines, she graduated from Mount Holyoke College and earned an MBA and JD from Harvard University. Read more

2021 Winner: Sandra Fenwick

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Sandra Fenwick ’72, Former CEO Boston Children’s Hospital

Fenwick served as CEO of Boston Children’s Hospital, the nation’s top-ranked pediatric hospital and world’s leading pediatric medical and health research institution, for more than 20 years until her retirement in 2021. Fenwick, who became the hospital’s first woman chief executive officer in 2013, led a 20,000-person team dedicated to advancing child health through clinical care, biomedical research, medical education, and community engagement. Read more.

Visionary leaders see around corners. They make manifest a reality that today does not exist. Helen G. Drinan’s legacy of leadership is one of commitment, values and action. It is a legacy Simmons University is proud to carry on in her name and to amplify so that other visionary women leaders are seen and honored.

Susan MacKenty Brady

CEO, Simmons University Institute for Inclusive Leadership

About the award

The Helen G. Drinan Visionary Leader Award is presented at our annual Simmons Leadership Conference. Candidates are nominated by the Institute’s team of staff, experts, and strategic advisory board members based on the recommendations offered by community members and business leaders worldwide. Each year’s recipient is selected by a distinguished Awards Committee.

Who is eligible for the Helen G. Drinan award?

A woman leader who:

  • Exemplifies their values in their actions and leadership style.
  • Demonstrates a commitment to an organization, compassion to its members, and courage to make challenging business decisions.
  • Ensures the long-term stability of an organization with vision and action.
  • Open and transparent about challenges in an effort to show others that they are not alone.
  • Demonstrates curiosity and a “work is never done” attitude necessary for organizations to stay ahead of the curve (innovation, anticipation).
  • Prioritizes financial stability and fiscal responsibility.

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What is the nomination process?

  • Nomination process for the 2025 award will be launched in the fall of 2024, with a nomination deadline of December 31, 2024.

  • The Award Committee will select and notify the recipient by January 31, 2025.

  • Public honoring of the recipient will be made at the 46th Annual Simmons Leadership Conference.

When will it be awarded?

  • The award will be presented each year our annual Simmons Leadership Conference. Learn more.