Helen G. Drinan

President, Simmons College

Helen G. Drinan's Story

Helen G. Drinan has served as President of Simmons College in Boston since 2008. Under her leadership, the College has completed the largest fundraising campaign in its history ($100 million), welcomed the two largest freshman classes in its history, reconfigured its undergraduate curriculum around leadership development, launched 12 world-class online graduate degree programs, and has cemented its status as a premier institution for women scholars.

Founded in 1899, Ms. Drinan is Simmons’s eighth president. The twin hallmarks of Ms. Drinan’s tenure are fiscal stability and growth, and the unwavering institutional focus on its mission to develop career skills of Simmons students. Prior to being named President, Ms. Drinan served as the Chair of the College’s Board of Trustees.

In leading the institution forward, Ms. Drinan has established herself as a national expert on women’s education as a pathway to developing successful leaders, with her comments and writings appearing in numerous media outlets including National Public Radio, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and The Boston Business Journal. The most recent recognitions for her work on behalf of women’s and girls’ education and leadership include the MissionSAFE “Be the Change“ Award (2015); Women’s Lunch Place Honoree (2014); Strong Women Strong Girls “Phenomenal Woman” (2014); Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts Leading Woman (2013); Woman LEAD “Woman Who Leads in Academia and Inspires Others” (2013), and the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Pinnacle Award for Excellence in Arts & Education (2012).

Ms. Drinan is a member of several organizations dedicated to empowering women including the Advisory Council of the Women in Public Service Project; 2020 Women on Boards; and the Massachusetts Women's Forum.

Previously, Ms. Drinan served as Senior Vice President of Human Resources at Caritas Christi Health Care and also served as President and CEO of the Society of Human Resources Management, the largest human resource professional organization in the world. Prior to that role, Ms. Drinan served as Executive Vice President of Human Resources for BankBoston, where she developed nationally recognized programs on executive compensation, work-life strategy, and diversity. In 2007, Ms. Drinan received the John D. Erdlen Five Star Award, the highest award given annually by the Northeast Human Resource Association; in 2001 she was named a Fellow of the National Academy of Human Resources.

Ms. Drinan currently serves as Vice Chair of the board of directors of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and is a member of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts (AICUM). Ms. Drinan has contributed significantly to the New England Jesuit Province (Member, Jesuit Provincial Development Committee); the Catherine Laboure Center (Board of Directors); Saint Anthony Shrine, the Workers' Chapel (Lector); Newton Country Day School (Board of Directors) as well as to her South Boston parish of St. Brigid's. She was a Founding Member of the Boston College Club, served as a member of the Commonwealth's Court Management Advisory Board, and also served as a member of the Mount Holyoke College Board of Trustees.

Her experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines in the early ‘70s with her husband and two small children provided her with formative multicultural experiences that have influenced her leadership style and sensitivity. President Drinan was one of five prominent Bostonians highlighted in the Boston Globe’s 50th Anniversary Peace Corps feature article.

Another seminal moment for Ms. Drinan was when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014. She chose to make her battle public, using blogs, emails, and media interviews to help reduce the lingering stigma around cancer, and to encourage women and men to stay vigilant about their health. She is keenly interested in the relationship between carcinogens in consumer products and their impact on the incidents of cancer.

An undergraduate alumna of Mount Holyoke College, Ms. Drinan also holds degrees from the Simmons School of Management and the Simmons School of Library and Information Science. She resides in Boston with her husband, David H. Drinan. They have three grown children and six grandchildren.