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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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 2024 award will be launched in the fall of 2023, with a nomination deadline of December 31, 2023.

  • The Award Committee will select and notify the recipient by January 31, 2024.

  • Public honoring of the recipient will be made at the 45th Annual Simmons Leadership Conference.

When will it be awarded?

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

Nominations for the 2024 award will open in fall 2023.