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The 2003 American Woman Award
Marsha Johnson Evans

 

Marsha Johnson Evans became President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Red Cross on August 5, 2002. As President and CEO, Evans leads an organization that, last year alone, assisted the victims of more than 70,000 disasters - from fires that affected a single structure to large-scale events such as hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and wildfires -; collected and processed 7.2 million blood donations - over half the nation blood supply - from 4 million volunteer donors; trained almost 12 million people in lifesaving skills such as first aid and CPR; transmitted 14 million emergency messages and provided other direct assistance to more than half a million military families; and responded to international natural disasters and other humanitarian emergencies such as unsafe, non-potable water, mass starvation and life-threatening diseases such as measles.

Evans brings an impressive array of experience to her position at the Red Cross - not the least of which is a 29-year career with the U.S. Navy. As a Navy officer, Evans held a variety of command positions overseeing multi-million dollar budgets and hundreds of thousands of employees. Between 1993 and 1995, for example, she led the Navy Recruiting Command. With more than 6,000 employees in 1,200 locations, she was responsible for recruiting some 70,000 officers and enlisted personnel annually. She served as chief executive of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, where she led an effort to restructure and adapt educational programs to better meet demands on incoming officers, and was chief of staff at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. She also served as commanding officer of the Treasure Island Naval Station, where she directed Navy personnel and civilians who support Navy families in the San Francisco Bay Area. She retired in 1997 as a Rear Admiral; one of very few women to reach this rank.

Assuming the top staff position at the Girl Scouts four years ago, a natural continuation of her efforts to expand professional roles of women in the Navy, Evans labored to offer young women meaningful programs, both personally and professionally. Under her leadership, the Girl Scouts created or expanded cutting-edge programs to enhance girls' experiences in science, technology, sports, money management and community service. Spearheading efforts to update Girl Scouts' image and change recruiting practices, Evans presided over a substantial increase in the number of adult volunteers. At a time when many charities report an all-time low in their volunteer ranks, Girl Scouts has increased theirs to nearly 1 million adults, the highest number in the organization's history, with corresponding increases in young members.

With her rich background, Evans is no stranger to issues facing the Red Cross and scores of other nonprofit organizations, among them: the need to recruit volunteers and employees from diverse backgrounds. Evans led the push at Girl Scouts, as she has said, "to reach more girls from racial, ethnic and minority groups….that's our goal, to make Girl Scouting available to every girl." At the Red Cross, she has championed the development and implementation of the Red Cross Diversity Business Model, and incorporated diversity into the Red Cross strategic plan as an organizational priority. To this end, she has created programs and established business practices that are inclusive of minority populations.

Evans has also grappled with decreased fund-raising returns in the faltering economy, seeking to develop new sources of revenue, such as gifts from donors' retirement and pension funds. During her tenure, contributions to Girl Scouts grew by more than 20 percent between 1998 and 2001.

Since her arrival at the American Red Cross, Evans has seen the need for a strong Red Cross grow exponentially. In today's uncertain world, Evans lead the Red Cross in developing and implementing a bold, new initiative, Together We Prepare, that with five, simple steps - make a plan, build a kit, get trained, give blood and volunteer - empowers the American people in every home, school, business and neighborhood to be prepared for the unexpected.

Throughout her career, Evans has received various honors, awards, and accolades. Most recently, Evans, a 1979-80 White House Fellow, was awarded the prestigious 2002 John W. Gardner Legacy of Leadership Award by the White House Fellows Association.

"Marty" Evans, as she is known, grew up in Springfield, Illinois, the daughter of a Navy chief petty officer. She entered the Navy immediately after graduating from Occidental College in Los Angeles with a B.A. in Law and Diplomacy. Some years later, the Navy provided her with the opportunity to earn a master's, and she completed a degree in International Security at Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Her degree was supplemented by additional studies at Tufts, the National War College in Washington, D.C., and the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. Evans, who counts skiing and kayaking among her hobbies, has traveled the world, residing in cities such as Tokyo and London. She lives with her husband, Jerry Evans, a retired Navy jet pilot.

Click here to see photos from the Awards Reception and Gala.