National Geographic Society Names First Female Chair in Its History

Jean Case steps up.

The National Geographic Society has named Jean Case as chairman of its board of trustees, making her the first female head in the 128 years of the Society’s existence. She had been a member of the board since 2010, but her work with the organization goes back to 2005.

Case is the CEO of The Case Foundation, the organization she co-founded along with husband Steve Case in 1997 that funds entrepreneurial efforts. Before that, she was an executive at AOL, responsible for marketing, branding and communications before and after AOL’s launch.

In a Medium post announcing her new position, Case talks about her introduction to National Geographic when she was a child, “when family friends shared with me their precious library of carefully preserved National Geographic magazines. I found myself drawn to those riveting photographs and stories inside the magazine,” she writes. “They ignited my curiosity and made the world come alive for me. They contributed to my passion for the world and its people, and for the mission of the National Geographic Society.”

This is how Case views the enterprise today:

Today the Society has a robust endowment to assure continued funding of important work in science, exploration and education. From the exciting, more mission focused program lineup that is planned for the National Geographic Channel; to the outstanding editorial and photography of the National Geographic magazine and related website, apps and digital platforms; to our plans for greater exploration and conservation of our world’s unique places, we believe the future is bright and the opportunity to inspire people to care about the planet and its people is more exciting than ever before.

The National Geographic Society remains independent of the controversial deal it made with Rupert Murdoch this fall that gave 21st Century Fox a controlling stake in National Geographic magazine, the National Geographic Channel and National Geographic Books. The Society’s endowment, which Case mentioned above, grew in the $725 million deal.

Case succeeds John Fahey, who is retiring.