Influential Leaders

Carolyn Woo

Carolyn Woo

Purdue University, Krannert School of Management

Non-Profit

Carolyn Woo is president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the official humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. She came to CRS after a distinguished academic career at her alma mater, Purdue University, as well as at the University of Notre Dame, where she served as business school dean. She was the first female dean to chair AACSB International and directed its initiative for Peace Through Commerce. She also was featured in Foreign Policy magazine in 2013 as one of the 500 most powerful people on the planet.

Woo's service to humanity began early. She grew up in Hong Kong, where millions of people had fled the communist revolution. As early as fourth grade, she was translating documents such as utility bills and tax notifications for relatives who could not read English. Today, her reach expands much further—CRS touches more than 130 million people in nearly 100 countries.

Woo earned a bachelor's degree in economics from Purdue in three years and also holds a master's degree and doctorate from her alma mater. She has been awarded honorary doctorates from four universities: Providence College, University of St. Francis, Lewis University, and the University of Notre Dame. She serves on a number of corporate and nonprofit boards, ranging from AON Corp. and NiSource to the Archdiocese of Baltimore Independent Study Review Board and Migration & Refugee Services for the U.S. Conference of Bishops.

Woo has made major accomplishments at every step in her career ascent. After working two years in industry, Woo was named an assistant professor at Purdue, advancing to full professor 10 years later. She directed Krannert's professional master's programs before moving to central university administration, where she served as associate executive vice president for academic affairs. Her teaching, research, and administrative excellence were recognized through Best Paper Awards by the Academy of Management and through her selection as one of Forty Young Leaders of American Academe by Change Magazine.

Woo continued her administrative success as dean of the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business. Mendoza was frequently recognized as the nation's leading business school in ethics education and research and twice was ranked as the No. 1 undergraduate business program by Bloomberg Businessweek. Woo also made an impact on business education through her work with AACSB International, where she directed the Peace Through Commerce initiative. The initiative decreed, among other things, that business school leadership should establish the proposition that business needs peace to thrive and thriving businesses promote peace.

Woo then found a new calling as president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services. Under her leadership, millions of people around the globe are getting improved access to water, health care, and agricultural tools, as well as relief from natural disasters. Woo's advice and knowledge is greatly respected—in 2013, her monthly column in the Catholic News Service took first place in the Catholic Press Association Awards.