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UN Foundation Leader Receives Administrator of the Year Award

Kathy Calvin, president and director of the United Nations Foundation, was named 2019 Administrator of the Year by the Romney Institute of Public Management at the BYU Marriott School of Business.

The Administrator of the Year award is presented annually by the Romney Institute to an outstanding individual who has achieved distinction for his or her efforts in the public or nonprofit sector. Award recipients are recognized for their personal and professional qualities and the example they set for BYU Marriott MPA students.

Kathy Calvin
Kathy Calvin

“I’m honored by this award,” Calvin said during the institute’s annual banquet. “I was grateful to have this opportunity and to see what BYU is all about.”

Calvin’s effective leadership in advocating for the UN and creating public-private partnerships was more than worthy of receiving recognition, says award committee co-chair and Romney Institute associate professor Rex Facer. “Her peers often refer to her as a force multiplier,” says Facer. “She not only values the people she serves, but she also recognizes the need for people to be engaged and make choices.”

As a leader of the UN Foundation, Calvin says bringing people together, solving global problems, and helping the most vulnerable has been an incredible honor. “My career has been about figuring out how to help people make their lives better, improving our common society, and standing up for women,” Calvin says. “I’ve been lucky with all of the opportunities I’ve been exposed to that led me to the UN Foundation. I’m in a place now where I can lead and try to do good in partnership with everyone else willing to act.”

UN Foundation director Kathy Calvin speaks during the Romney Institute's Administrator of the Year ceremony.
UN Foundation director Kathy Calvin speaks during the Romney Institute's Administrator of the Year ceremony.

Throughout her life, Calvin has been a passionate advocate for multisector problem-solving, United States leadership on global issues, and the inclusion of women at all professional levels and sectors.

Before joining the UN Foundation in 2003, Calvin served as president of the AOL Time Warner Foundation where she guided AOL Time Warner’s philanthropic activities and was the chief architect of the company’s corporate-responsibility initiatives. She joined America Online in 1997 as senior vice president and chief communications officer and oversaw the company’s brand, social responsibility, and external relations.

Prior to joining AOL Time Warner, she was a senior managing director at Hill and Knowlton, a global public relations company, where she led the US media relations practice. Twelve years before her work for Hill and Knowlton, Calvin served as director of editorial administration for U.S. News & World Report, overseeing budget, personnel, innovation, and strategy.

From 1976 to 1984, Calvin served as press secretary for former United States Senator Gary Hart in his senate office and during his 1984 presidential campaign. She was one of the first women to hold the title of press secretary in an American presidential campaign.

Calvin’s leadership and efforts in philanthropy have not gone unnoticed. In 2011, she was named one of Newsweek’s 150 Women Who Rock the World and was listed in Fast Company’s League of Extraordinary Women in 2012. Her innovative work in the philanthropy and international NGO sectors was featured by The New York Times in 2011, and she has received numerous awards for philanthropy and leadership over the course of her career.

When she heard she was nominated for the Administrator of the Year award, Calvin looked forward to seeing BYU alum and former UN foundation chief communications and marketing officer Aaron Sherinian at the awards banquet. “Aaron worked to such a high standard for the UN foundation and has told me so much about BYU and his beliefs,” says Calvin.

Sherinian says his time working for the UN Foundation under Calvin’s direction taught him about the importance of taking risks and having a stance that leads to significant change. “You don’t have to work for a humanitarian organization to be humanitarian,” says Sherinian. “You can place that purpose into your life regardless of your title or business card—that is what I’ve learned from Kathy.”

Before attending the awards banquet, Calvin took the time to meet with faculty and students to learn about the culture at BYU. “I don’t think of myself as an administrator but as someone who’s in service and was happy to be part of the program and learn more about the faith and sense of community fostered at BYU,” she says.

With those visits, Calvin was amazed by the university’s overall commitment to service. “I’ve learned that Utah is ranked number one in the nation for volunteer efforts,” says Calvin. “While visiting the BYU campus, I noticed a passion towards helping others that comes from a commitment to a belief and strong sense of purpose. There is a lot society can learn from Utah.”

During her remarks at the banquet, Calvin offered several points of advice to graduating MPA students as they embark on their future endeavors in public administration, including how to be a good leader, maintain a public service ethic, and ensure that “the public is at the heart of public service.”

Calvin encouraged graduating BYU Marriott MPA students to become leaders in acts of service no matter the career path they pursue. “This is a time like no other, and you are poised to make a big difference on the world stage,” she said. “As you do, please never lose sight of the people we serve, because that’s where real change is going to come from.”


Writer: Brittany Salinas