NEW YORK, October 15, 2008 - GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, and the GLSEN national board of directors today announced that Dr. Eliza Byard has been selected as the organization's new Executive Director. Dr. Byard will officially begin as Executive Director on November 1, 2008.
"The search committee had the unenviable task of finding a steward to follow in the footsteps of GLSEN's founder and longtime national leader, Kevin Jennings. In Eliza, we found a leader with the vision, integrity, experience and bold wisdom to lead GLSEN and strengthen our greater national safe schools movement," said Deborah Dagit, chair of the search committee and Chief Diversity Officer at Merck & Co., Inc.
Dr. Byard brings more than 20 years of experience in nonprofit development and management to her new role at GLSEN. She was hired by Jennings in 2001 and has since served as GLSEN's Deputy Executive Director. She has been principally responsible for leading all of GLSEN's program areas and was instrumental in the development of many of GLSEN's signature programs and initiatives, including the organization's research capacity, student organizing and GSA support programs, and educator training programs. She also spearheaded the development of GLSEN's national ThinkB4YouSpeak (www.thinkb4youspeak.com) campaign, the first-ever Ad Council campaign on LGBT issues, which launched last week. Dr. Byard also led GLSEN's federal policy strategy, fostering the national partnerships and relationships with lawmakers that have built bi-partisan Congressional support for Safe Schools policy and legislation.
"Over the past 15 years, GLSEN has grown from being the vision of a remarkable individual to being an established and respected institution at the center of a growing movement," says Dr. Byard."I am thrilled and humbled by the opportunity to build on GLSEN's accomplishments and be the new steward of this organization at this important moment."
GLSEN Founder and Executive Director Kevin Jennings notes on the announcement, "I first met Eliza in 1994 after working with her mother, one of GLSEN's earliest volunteers and an organizer of our work in New York City. Eliza and I later worked directly together producing Out of the Past, and I knew immediately she was the partner I was looking for to lead GLSEN. Since her joining GLSEN as our Deputy ED in 2001 she has been my primary partner in taking our vision and creating a national movement. She has earned the respect and admiration of our staff, Board, donors, students and chapter leaders and leaders of allied organizations in both the education and LGBT/civil rights worlds in the process. I am proud the board shares my confidence in her leadership as GLSEN begins a new chapter in the history of our movement."
After serving as Development Director for the Center for Investigative Reporting, Dr. Byard began work in 1996 as co-producer of Out of the Past, a film that chronicled both the modern-day struggle over the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance in Salt Lake City, Utah, and pivotal chapters in lesbian and gay history in the United States. Out of the Past premiered at Sundance, where it won the Audience Award, and was broadcast nationally on PBS in 1998.
In 2002, Eliza Byard was awarded a PhD in United States History by Columbia University. Since 2003, Byard has served as chair of the Board of Directors of Arts Engine, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the production, distribution and use of social issue independent media to promote progressive change, and a pioneer in the online streaming of on-demand video content.
"As GLSEN's current Deputy Executive Director, Eliza is a longtime leader that the education and LGBT communities have known and respected for years. When we launched this search, Eliza made her interests known, but insisted we conduct a full national search to ensure we found the right candidate. The board agreed and after our lengthy national search, we were even more confident that in Eliza we had the best leader to move GLSEN forward," said Bob Chase, GLSEN National Board chair and former president of the National Education Association.
The selection is announced by the national board after a six-month search that included an overwhelming and impressive slate of diverse candidates from corporate, nonprofit and political circles. The search was facilitated by a committee comprised of GLSEN national board members, chapter, staff, student and volunteer leaders, in partnership with executive search firm, Heidrick & Struggles. The committee's recommendation to hire Dr. Byard as Executive Director was presented to the national board at a special October 11th meeting and was enthusiastically and unanimously approved later that day.
Search committee member Talia Stein, an alumna of GLSEN's student organizing program now attending Brown University commented, "As a committee, we reflected together about what characteristics and skills GLSEN's next leader would need. Eliza has a rare talent to relate to youth and organizational leaders alike, inspiring us all to mobilize and act. GLSEN faces a moment with unique challenges and extraordinary opportunities, and Eliza has the perfect mix of stability, drive and, most importantly, vision, to guide us through."
A proud native of New York City, Eliza lives in Brooklyn with her partner of 14 years, Eva Kolodner, and their daughter Klara who recently began pre-school.
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established nationally in 1995, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. For more information on our educator resources, research, public policy agenda, student organizing programs or development initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.