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CEO of Girl Scouts to Receive Honorary Doctorate


By Ashley Johnson

Commerce – Kathy Cloninger, CEO of Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. and Texas A&M University-Commerce alumna, will receive one of the university's highest honors May 14, an honorary doctor of letters degree.

Cloninger's visit to campus will also include a dinner with area Girl Scouts at the Sam Rayburn Student Center Friday evening, and serving as the keynote commencement speaker for the undergraduate ceremonies at 8:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. on Saturday. The honorary doctorate will be presented during the 3:30 p.m. ceremonies for master's and doctoral students.

Friday evening's dinner will honor 28 area Girl Scouts who were chosen as finalists in an essay contest sponsored by the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas. The essay was about leadership and how the Girl Scouts have helped the young women become leaders in their communities. Cloninger will present the night's keynote address; she will be joined by staff from the Girls Scouts of the USA and Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas.

A native of Dallas, Texas, Cloninger got her start as a Girl Scout in her mother's troop. She earned an M.S. in counseling and business management from East Texas State University. She and her husband, Michael, favor country music, and have hosted nearly 350 world-class songwriter concerts at their homes in Nashville and New York.

On her arrival at Girl Scout headquarters in late 2003, Cloninger launched a sweeping transformation of the entire Girl Scout Movement to increase its appeal and relevance to 21st-century girls and fulfill the Girl Scout mission to build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.

Cloninger's more than two decades in Girl Scouting include service as a CEO with Girl Scout councils in Tennessee, Texas, and Colorado; as national management consultant for GSUSA; and as a participant in groundbreaking task groups strategizing on girls' well-being. She was also an executive grant-maker at the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, CEO of two YWCA branches in Texas, and a career development consultant.

Cloninger serves as secretary of the board of directors of the National Assembly of Human Services, on the national boards of American Humanics and the National Council for Research on Women, and on advisory boards for America's Promise, See Jane, and the National Association of Corporate Boards. She is a founder of Tennessee's Association of Nonprofit Executives. She has received numerous awards, including Nonprofit CEO of the Year 2000 from the Center for Nonprofit Management and the NCCJ Human Relations Award.