Press Release

The National Geographic Society Names Dr. Jill Tiefenthaler as Chief Executive Officer

Proven Innovator to Lead 132-Year-Old Institution Into New Era

© 2019 Jeffrey Cloutier / Cloutier Fotographic

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 14, 2020 — The National Geographic Society board of trustees today named Jill Tiefenthaler as chief executive officer. Dr. Tiefenthaler has served as president of Colorado College since 2011 and will assume her new role in August 2020.

Tiefenthaler’s experience as a dynamic innovator and nationally recognized college president and educator will ensure the National Geographic Society has the leadership it needs to build on its 132-year mission of using the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of the world. Throughout her career, Tiefenthaler has been able to drive complex and dynamic organizations forward, securing the financial support they have needed and respecting the cultures and fundamentals that have made them successful. She has also fostered environments where growth and new thinking is celebrated and where the next generation can make their own mark.

“I am so thrilled to take on this leadership role at the National Geographic Society at this exciting time,” said Tiefenthaler. “Given its unparalleled global reputation, strong board, dedicated staff, bold explorers and storytellers and new partnership with Disney through National Geographic Partners, the Society has never been better positioned to pursue its mission to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world.”

“Jill brings to National Geographic an impressive record of success as an innovator and leader,” said Jean Case, chairman of the board of trustees of the National Geographic Society. “Jill has the rare combination of strategic vision and execution skills, as well as depth of experience in building alliances, strengthening business models and advancing institutions to a new level. Jill’s skills, background and experience are perfectly suited to help the National Geographic Society further extend its reach and impact for many years to come.”

As president of Colorado College since 2011, Tiefenthaler has helped set a new direction for the school, executed the most ambitious fundraising campaign in the college’s history and developed and implemented a comprehensive strategic plan that has expanded and cultivated an engaged and globally connected academic community. She developed a Campus Master Plan, executed an alliance to make the world-class Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center part of the college and led a search for Colorado College’s first provost. Out of this plan came several notable initiatives, including the planning and design of the renovated and expanded Charles L. Tutt Library, the largest academic library to achieve net-zero energy construction. She has also successfully driven increases in diversity of the faculty and student body and selectivity in admissions.

She was previously provost of Wake Forest University where she redesigned the admission process to include the SAT optional policy, integrated the university’s undergraduate and graduate schools, established the Institute for Public Engagement and The Humanities Institute and implemented “Living Our Values,” a plan to strengthen residential life and campus vibrancy. Tiefenthaler began her academic career at Colgate University, where she served from 1991 to 2007.

Tiefenthaler’s appointment as CEO culminates an extensive, global executive search headed by Heidrick & Struggles, including a review of hundreds of candidates. She will become the Society’s first female chief executive officer and will succeed Tracy R. Wolstencroft in the role. Wolstencroft announced he was stepping down as CEO in September, having successfully led the Society through its transition to having a new joint venture partner. “The board of trustees joins me in thanking Tracy for his many contributions to the National Geographic Society and we look forward to his continued service as a trustee,” said Case.

Media Contact

General Media Contact
If you are a member of the media with an inquiry or interview request, please call during regular business hours or email
(202) 857 7027
Kelsey Flora
Director, Marketing & Engagement
Back to Top
About National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 15,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content. To learn more, visit or follow us on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.