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Richard E. Stearns is president of World Vision U.S., one of the nation’s largest non-profit organizations. After a quarter-century business career serving as CEO of two different corporations, Rich joined World Vision in 1998, leading the Christian relief and development organization to unprecedented growth and calling on the American Church to respond to the global AIDS pandemic.
World Vision has more than 1,200 staff in the United States and partners with U.S. corporations, government agencies, foundations, churches, and more than a million individual donors to help children and their communities reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty. The World Vision global partnership last year touched the lives of an estimated 100 million people internationally, with total revenues exceeding $2.6 billion worldwide and more than 44,000 staff.
Since joining World Vision U.S., Stearns has built a strong leadership team focused on bringing corporate best practices to the non-profit sector and inspiring a culture of outcome-focused management at all levels of the organization. Donations have tripled for World Vision’s U.S. office from $358 million in 1998 to over $1 billion in 2012.
As one of his first initiatives as World Vision’s president, Stearns empowered World Vision’s senior leadership to increase awareness and funding for AIDS programs. This came at a time when the organization’s own research found that donors had little interest in helping to stop the spread of the disease; donors actually were less interested in helping children orphaned by AIDS than other disadvantaged children.
Stearns chronicles his journey from corporate CEO to advocate for those affected by poverty and injustice in his best-selling book, The Hole in Our Gospel, published in 2009 by Thomas Nelson. Named the 2010 Christian Book of the Year by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, The Hole in Our Gospel challenges readers in the faith community to rise out of apathy to meet the challenges of global poverty and injustice. Rich’s second book, Unfinished, was published in April 2013 by Thomas Nelson.
Stearns served in the inaugural year of President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and has also served on the boards of InterAction, the USAID’s Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid, and the ONE Campaign. He currently serves on the board of Seattle Pacific University.
Stearns speaks frequently to audiences ranging from local churches to the World Food Program’s NGO Consortium. He has received honorary doctorates from Eastern University, Azusa Pacific University, and the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.
As a spokesperson for World Vision, he has appeared on CNN, Fox, ABC, NBC, and PBS, and has written op-eds for major newspapers and magazines around the United States on topics such as AIDS and global poverty.
Stearns is the second of two children of working class parents in Syracuse, New York. He worked his way through Cornell University, earning a bachelor’s degree in neurobiology in 1973. After receiving a master’s degree in business administration from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Stearns began a career in marketing for several Fortune 500 companies, starting with the Gillette Company.
From 1977 to 1985, Stearns held various roles with Parker Brothers Games, culminating in his appointment as President in 1984. He joined Lenox, the American gift and tableware company, in 1987 as division president. He was named president and CEO of Lenox Inc., in 1995, overseeing six manufacturing facilities, 4,000 employees and $500 million in annual sales.
Since joining World Vision U.S. in 1998, Stearns also has participated in the larger World Vision partnership, leading efforts to refine the organization’s business practices and advocating for global impact standards to evaluate programs effectiveness.
Stearns has traveled to more than 40 of the nearly 100 countries where World Vision works. He and his wife Reneé have been World Vision donors since 1984. A lawyer by training, Mrs. Stearns also travels and speaks on behalf of World Vision. The couple lives in the Seattle area and has five children.
Learn more about Rich, his work, and his publications at richstearns.org.
Rich is available to speak on the following topics. Learn more about our work in these areas, and contact the Speakers Bureau with any questions.