DALLAS – As her sister was dying from breast cancer, Nancy G. Brinker made a promise to her: She would do everything she could to wipe out the disease.
Brinker fulfilled that commitment by founding a breast cancer charity in 1982 that grew into the world’s largest – a national fundraising powerhouse that has invested more than $740 million in research and $1.3 billion in services such as screening and education over the last three decades.
Now Brinker, the public face of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, is stepping down as CEO, about six months after the organization’s hotly debated decision to stop giving grants to Planned Parenthood for breast screenings. The move to withdraw the funding was quickly reversed after an onslaught of criticism, but it stirred up anger on both sides of the abortion debate.
Brinker, 65, will move to a new role focusing on fundraising and strategic planning once a new senior executive has been found.
“She’s wanting now to kind of get away from the day-to-day operation as CEO,” said Komen spokeswoman Andrea Rader. She said Brinker will concentrate on “growing the global work, working on the strategy and of course raising the funds,” and she will still have “a major role in the organization.”
The group also announced that Komen President Liz Thompson will step down next month and that two board members are leaving as well.
They are just the latest departures. After the Planned Parenthood episode, at least a half-dozen other high-ranking executives resigned, and organizers of many Race for the Cure events – the group’s signature fundraiser – have seen participation decline.
Rader said neither Thompson nor Brinker was available to comment, but she insisted their moves were not the result of the Planned Parenthood decision, saying that Brinker, who has served as CEO since 2009, wanted a different focus. Thompson, she said, had been thinking of making a change for a while.