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WomanOf the Month 1-04: American Red Cross President and CEO Marsha J. Evans

Close to 60 percent of Americans are wholly unprepared for a disaster of any description," said Red Cross President and CEO Marsha J. Evans in a recent address to the American public. "They don###t have a family emergency plan, nor are they aware of school, workplace and community procedures. They have not stocked emergency supplies, nor have they sought even basic first-aid and CPR training. They###re not giving blood, nor are they donating their time or money to emergency support services like the American Red Cross."

March is Red Cross Month, and the theme for 2004 is preparedness. A look at Evans### career and the journey that has led her to the helm of the Red Cross shows the depth of her own preparation for making a significant contribution to this invaluable organization. Last year the Red Cross assisted the victims of more than 70,000 disasters; collected and processed nearly half the nation###s blood supply; 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, 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 1998 as a rear admiral; one of very few women to reach this rank.

Assuming the top staff position at the Girl Scouts of the USA in January 1998, 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 reported a dramatic decline in their volunteer ranks, the Girl Scouts increased their numbers to nearly 1 million adults, the highest 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. 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 led the charge to create programs and establish business practices that are inclusive of all populations.

Since her arrival at the Red Cross, Evans has seen the need for strong, exponential growth. With the input of over 6,000 Red Crossers, community leaders, and other stakeholders from across the country, she developed the 2003 Strategic Plan. This innovative plan is aimed at focusing Red Cross resources on the programs and services communities need most. Additionally, Evans led the Red Cross in implementing a bold, new initiative, Together We Prepare. With five simple steps - make a plan, build a kit, get trained, give blood and volunteer - this initiative empowers Americans of all ages to prepare themselves, their homes, schools, businesses, and neighborhoods for the unexpected.

Throughout her career, Evans has received various honors, awards, and accolades. Most recently, she was named a 2003 Woman of Distinction, adding her name to a roster of distinguished past recipients, including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Phyllis George. A 1979-80 White House Fellow, Evans was also awarded the prestigious 2002 John W. Gardner Legacy of Leadership Award by the White House Fellows Association.

"Marty," as she is known to friends and Red Cross colleagues, 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 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 golfing among her hobbies, has traveled the world, residing in such cities such as Tokyo and London. She lives with her husband, Jerry Evans, a retired Navy jet pilot.