publication date: Aug. 6, 2020
Gary Reedy to retire from top job at ACS
By Paul Goldberg
Gary Reedy announced that he will retire from his job as CEO of the American Cancer Society when his contract expires next April.
“I came to this decision after very thoughtful consideration, and, as I told the Board, I believe the time is right for both my family and the Society,” Reedy wrote in an Aug. 4 letter addressed to “friends and colleagues.”
Describing his nearly five years at ACS, Reedy wrote that the charity has become “more nimble, less risk-averse, more courageous, and not afraid to innovate for greater impact.” Also, “we are delivering on our key initiatives through cutting-edge research, increasing screening rates, improving access to health care, deepening corporate engagement with our partners, and launching the BrightEdge philanthropic impact fund.
“I am confident that by April, we will emerge on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic and global economic crisis and be well positioned for a new leader to come in and hit the ground running,” Reedy wrote.
Reedy’s departure was widely predicted well before the pandemic gutted the charity’s fundraising. In February, weeks before the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in the U.S., Reedy ceded day-to-day operations of the society to a chief operating officer.
At the time, Reedy described the transfer of power to COO Kris Kim as motivated by an effort “to dedicate more of my time to reach new audiences and accelerate our mission and revenue priorities.”
However, knowledgeable sources at the time said that conflicts among members of the society’s “senior leadership team” have on several occasions reached the board level (The Cancer Letter, Feb. 7, 2020).
The charity’s revenues have been sliding since 2008, when it reported total public support of over $1 billion. In 2015, the year Reedy accepted the CEO’s job, total public support was at $810 million.
After COVID-19 struck, the Atlanta charity found itself facing catastrophic revenue losses. According to information widely shared with the staff, the charity was hoping to raise $512 million this year, a target that represents the best-case scenario (The Cancer Letter, June 19, 2020).
On July 22, ACS staff members working at the Atlanta headquarters received notice to remove their personal belongings from the headquarters by July 30 as the society prepared to vacate the high-rent building overlooking the Centennial Olympic Park (The Cancer Letter, July 24, 2020).
The text of Reedy’s announcement follows:
Aug. 4, 2020
Dear friends and colleagues,
I am writing to share the news that I recently informed the Board of Directors that I plan to retire as the chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society and ACS CAN when my contract expires in April 2021.
I came to this decision after very thoughtful consideration, and, as I told the Board, I believe the time is right for both my family and the Society. When I reflect on my tenure as CEO, I feel humbled and grateful for each of you.
We have been through both wonderful and challenging times together. When I stepped into the role of CEO in April of 2015, the newly organized single corporate entity of the American Cancer Society required us to rebuild together.
You, our volunteers and staff, never wavered and I could not be prouder of our joint accomplishments. We have a new mission statement and a clear path with 2035 goals for the nation through our Blueprint for Cancer Control in the 21st Century and the Society’s refreshed first-ever enterprisewide strategic plan.
We have reinvigorated our volunteer-staff partnership and returned to our roots as a volunteer-led and driven organization. Together we developed new customer promises, core values, cultural beliefs, and a stronger commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity than ever before.
We are more nimble, less risk-averse, more courageous, and not afraid to innovate for greater
impact. And we are delivering on our key initiatives through cutting edge research, increasing screening rates, improving access to health care, deepening corporate engagement with our partners, and launching the BrightEdge philanthropic impact fund.
While the ACS and ACS CAN Boards and I provided leadership, you – the volunteers and staff – continue to do the hard work to make every innovation and success possible. Our shared success in these areas and so many others made this decision all the more difficult.
I am confident that by April, we will emerge on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic and global economic crisis and be well positioned for a new leader to come in and hit the ground running.
The Board will soon begin a rigorous CEO search and you will be hearing directly from our Board Chair about the process they will undertake to identify and transition to a new chief executive.
Thank you for the honor of serving as your CEO of the American Cancer Society and ACS CAN. I consider it one of the greatest privileges of my life. As I reflect on my time here, I can say unequivocally that what I will miss most are the amazing volunteers and staff I have come to know as colleagues and friends.
The spirit of volunteerism and the mission of this organization will forever be a part of who I am. Before I was your CEO, I was a volunteer for the American Cancer Society, and I will continue to volunteer after my departure.
We still have a great deal of work to do in the coming months and I remain as committed to moving our mission forward as my first day on the job. With great optimism I look to the future of the American Cancer Society and to seeing how we will continue to save lives, celebrate lives, and lead the fight for a world without cancer.
Gary M. Reedy