WASHINGTON—The National Geographic Society Board of Trustees today named Tracy R. Wolstencroft president and chief executive officer (CEO). He will assume the role effective October 1, taking the helm of the nonprofit Society to lead an ambitious impact-driven strategic plan to create a healthy, more sustainable planet for generations to come.
“The National Geographic Society has an unparalleled capacity to illuminate and educate people about the wonders of the world — and to inspire action at scale to protect it,” said Wolstencroft. “And thanks to our strategic relationship with National Geographic Partners (NGP), we’re uniquely positioned to reach global audiences through NGP’s powerful media platforms. It’s a unique privilege to join this amazing community of explorers, scientists, photographers, educators, storytellers and staff to help make measurable progress toward our ultimate vision: a planet in balance.”
Wolstencroft’s decades of experience as a global business leader will greatly benefit the Society as it strives to achieve its strategic aims while expanding its footprint in key markets around the world. He serves as chairman of Heidrick & Struggles, a premier international consultancy that advises on the power of talent and leadership to drive organizational performance. From 2014 to 2017, Wolstencroft was the firm’s president and CEO, leading the company through a transformation that resulted in a renewed competitive advantage and profitability.
“As a deeply respected member of the Society’s Board of Trustees, Tracy has been a key architect in the transformation of the Society’s mission and strategy in recent years, including helping to establish the joint venture that created National Geographic Partners, expanding National Geographic’s footprint in an unprecedented way,” said Jean M. Case, chairman of the National Geographic Society Board of Trustees and the National Geographic Partners Board of Directors. “During our intensive, months-long search process, we considered many highly qualified candidates. Tracy’s distinguished international career in finance and executive search will add extraordinary value as we accelerate innovation and generate lasting solutions. We can’t think of a better leader to implement our vision for the future.”
Previously, Wolstencroft was a long-standing partner at Goldman Sachs and served on its firm-wide partnership committee. Over the course of his 25-year career (1985–2010), he led a wide array of Goldman’s investment banking businesses and advised a diverse range of corporate and government clients across the United States, Asia and Latin America. During his tenure, he spent four years living in Asia where he focused on China, Japan and Singapore. Upon retiring from Goldman, and given his deep commitment to environmental sustainability, he continued advising the firm and serving as chair of Goldman’s global clean technology practice.
Throughout his career, Wolstencroft has contributed tirelessly to global nonprofit organizations with highly respected brands, missions that drive impact, and commitments to creating and broadly sharing content that inspires intellectual curiosity about our world. In addition to his contributions to the Society’s Board of Trustees, he is co-chair of the International Rescue Committee, a trustee of the Brookings Institution and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Wolstencroft has served as the Society’s Board of Trustees vice chairman as well as chair of its finance committee, providing seasoned stewardship of the organization’s financial assets and demonstrating his deep understanding of its mission. He joined the board in May 2008 after having served on the Society’s International Council of Advisors since 2004.
Wolstencroft steps into his new role as the Society seeks to address some of the greatest challenges facing the planet as well as the greatest opportunities to make a lasting difference. With 7.6 billion people placing unprecedented stresses on the world’s species and ecosystems, some estimates say current resource demands are already 1.5 times what the planet can provide. To confront this reality, the Society is committed to drawing on its legacy of — and continued investments in — strong science, exploration, education and storytelling. Concurrently, it will leverage its unparalleled brand recognition and the extensive reach of NGP, its global media arm, across digital, print and broadcast platforms.
The Society’s Board of Trustees launched its CEO search in March 2018 after the previous president and CEO, Gary E. Knell, became CEO of NGP. At that time, Michael L. Ulica agreed to serve as the Society’s interim president and CEO, and he has admirably led the organization during this time of transition. Ulica will now resume his previous roles of chief financial officer and chief operating officer.
Wolstencroft will sit on the NGS Board of Trustees and the NGP Board of Directors.