By Maria Saporta
After serving as president and CEO of CARE since April 2006, Helene Gayle has informed her colleagues that will be stepping down on July 1, 2015 – at the end of the international organization’s fiscal year.
Gayle wrote an email to her staff late last week explaining that she wanted to give the board enough time to begin a search “and avoid any long lapses in leadership for CARE.”
She also said that she has long believed that the ideal tenure for a CEO of an organization is about eight years before one risks becoming “redundant or irrelevant” as a leader.
“Ultimately, I think new leadership for a complex organization like CARE is good every eight to 10 years in order to make sure the organization continues to have fresh ideas to grow and to innovate,” Gayle wrote in the email. “So, at almost nine years, I think it is a reasonable time to begin to transition. I also feel that, ideally, it is best to leave an organization when it is on an upward trajectory.”
During her tenure at CARE, Gayle has faced some fierce challenges – especially during the Great Recession, when fundraising was most difficult yet the global needs were greatest.
“Thankfully, we have started turning the corner and have made a lot of progress in so many ways,” she said.
Specifically she mentioned that the organization has become more globally interconnected; it has had major gains in food aid reform; it has become a recognized nonprofit championing the roles of girls and women in development; and it has increased its visibility and is outpacing its revenue targets.
Gayle, 59, also said she decided to give plenty of notice about her departure from CARE to give herself “time to think about options for my next career phase.” She will be available for three to six months after July 1 to serve in a transitional role to make sure there is a smooth succession.
In many ways, Gayle already has enjoyed three separate careers. She received her medical degree from John Hopkins University, and then she spent nearly 20 years at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the last six of those years as director of CDC’s National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention.
She then left the CDC to join the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, where she directed the HIV, TB and Reproductive Health programs – overseeing grants worth about $1.5 billion. That career was to be involved with a foundation giving away money.
And then, in 2006, she was tapped to return to Atlanta to become president and CEO of CARE – an international relief organization. Gayle helped solidify the relationship between the issues of global public health and poverty — particularly extreme poverty in the developing world.
“Let me just say, working with CARE has been the most challenging yet fulfilling job I have ever had,” Gayle wrote to her colleagues. “I am constantly awed by the privilege of working alongside such incredible people, whose unwavering commitment to the dignity of all human kind is an inspiration to me.”