Faces Of NPR: NPR's Female Executives

Apr 5, 2017
Originally published on April 6, 2017 1:39 pm

Faces Of NPR is a weekly feature that showcases the people behind NPR, from the voices you hear every day on the radio to the ones who work outside of the recording studio. You'll find out about what they do and what they're inspired by on the daily.

This week, to wrap up Women's History Month, we're featuring NPR's female executives. Deborah Cowan is our Chief Financial Officer, Gina Garrubbo is the President and Chief Executive Officer of National Public Media, Meg Goldthwaite is our Chief Marketing Officer, Anya Grundmann is our Vice President of Programming and Audience Development, Gemma Hooley is our Vice President of Member Partnership, Loren Mayor is our Chief Operating Officer, Marjorie Powell is our Vice President of Human Resources, and Stephanie Witte is our Chief Development Officer.

What is your official title? What does that mean?

Deborah Cowan: Chief Financial Officer. I'm responsible for the financial leadership here at NPR. First and foremost, that means putting the roadmap in place and getting others to execute NPR's achievement of its financial aspirations. It involves overseeing NPR's financial operations, including accounting, treasury operations, and planning.

Gina Garrubbo: President and Chief Executive Officer of National Public Media. I oversee the NPR Corporate Sponsorship Team. We bring sponsors to NPR across all of our platforms, including events. I also oversee the NPR Spot Radio business which brings national sponsor dollars to NPR Member stations.

Anya Grundmann: Vice President of Programming and Audience Development. I oversee many of the radio shows, podcasts, music, and events that we distribute to stations and share with our audience.

Gemma Hooley: Vice President of Member Partnership. I lead the team that manages NPR's overall relationship with Member stations. We all feel very lucky to work at the heart of this partnership, supporting our shared mission in big and small ways every day, and helping to imagine and build the future of public media.

How did you get started here? Or what advice do you have for someone who wants a job like yours?

Gina Garrubbo: I have spent most of my career in sponsorship sales, working for wonderful brands that I believed in. NPR is absolutely the icing on my career cake, as I am a superfan!

Anya Grundmann: I started at NPR as an intern. Before that, I worked at NPR Member station KNAU in Flagstaff, Arizona, as a host and music programmer.

Gemma Hooley: After coming to the US for graduate school, I was working as a producer and editor for an independent public radio documentary series. Every Friday morning, I'd take the Metro in to DC to hand-deliver a copy of that week's show to Toby Pirro at PRSS. (Yes, this pre-dates ContentDepot!) I *might* have daydreamed a few times, on the walk up from the Metro to NPR, that I was walking in to work. When a station relations position opened up, I jumped at the chance.

What's your favorite #nprlife moment?

Anya Grundmann: I just had one the other day, when Bill Siemering, the visionary who wrote NPR's incredibly inspiring mission statement and started shows like All Things Considered and Fresh Air, came to visit NPR for the day. If you haven't read the mission statement, you should. It was written almost 50 years ago and feels astoundingly relevant today.

Gina Garrubbo: National Public Media (NPM) recently announced a record-breaking sponsorship revenue forecast. The NPM team feels a great sense of commitment and pride in being a growing part of NPR's financial well-being.

Gemma Hooley: Tough to pick a favorite. But bumping into Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Harry Belafonte in the lift is surely up there.

What are some of the coolest things you've worked on?

Gemma Hooley: I've been lucky to have worked on so many rewarding projects. Going back into the archives, the NPR "Presidential Candidates" radio debates with Iowa Public Radio stand out. So does the work we did in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, setting up a volunteer project for station reporters from all over the country to support the work of Member station newsrooms across Louisiana and Mississippi.

Deborah Cowan: Leading the projects to twice refinance NPR's bond debt. While we achieved the outcome of taking advantage of historically low interest rates to lower NPR's debt service costs, it was truly exciting to be on Wall Street and witness these projects culminating with individual and institutional investors investing millions in NPR. It truly speaks to the value of the enterprise and the confidence the public has in NPR.

Gina Garrubbo: I think being able to go out into the world and tell the NPR story to the Chief Marketing Officers of major brands in America is cool.

Anya Grundmann: I was lucky enough to be leading NPR Music when our colleagues came up with the idea for the Tiny Desk Concerts. It's been such a thrill to see that series grow into the phenomenon it is today.

What are you inspired by right now?

Anya Grundmann: I just saw the Yoyoi Kusama Infinity Mirrors exhibit at the Hirshhorn. Between that and the Wonder exhibit at the Renwick last year, it's fun to see artists exploring art as an experience you're part of, not just something you look at from afar.

Gina Garrubbo: It is the stories of everyday people doing brave and amazing things across the globe, and moments like when Fantastic Negrito won a Grammy.

Who is your role model and why?

Meg Goldthwaite: My grandmother, Bertha Clark, was a World War II widow who balanced a professional career and motherhood with ferocity, elegance, smarts, and patience. I lost her a while ago, but I strive to make her proud every day.

Gina Garrubbo: Our family friend, Jean Conlon, was a journalist and owned the local newspaper. She was a mentor and inspiration for me, reminding me that I could do anything that I wanted.

What's on your desk?

Loren Mayor: I like puzzles and my desk is covered with them. Sometimes it helps me think about a big problem by focusing on a little one. I have wooden puzzles, metal puzzles, and a Perplexus globe scattered around my office.

Marjorie Powell: Pension plan reports, board reports, Franklin Covey materials, books entitled Connecting Leaders, Leadership Machine, and FYI-For Your Improvement, a calculator, and at least three NPR cups or travel mugs for coffee.

Gina Garrubbo: A bunch of papers and photos of my daughter and dogs. Over my desk is the shot of George Clooney holding up the "I love NPR sign." I love that photo because in a very NPR fashion, he seems to be his authentic self sans makeup or black tie.

Meg Goldthwaite: A mug of hot green tea, Rubik's cube, mechanical pencil, Easy Button, pic of my husband, and an NPR logo made by me from pipe cleaners.

Anya Grundmann: I recently got a lamp that looks like an old microphone with an Edison bulb inside that I enjoy having near me — nice soft light and a nod to what we're doing every day.

Gemma Hooley: Looking around me now, I see a good collection of station mugs, the lapel pin from David Gilkey and Zabihullah Tamanna's memorial service, and some treasured sticks and stones from my favorite place back home in South Africa.

Favorite podcast?

Meg Goldthwaite: Hidden Brain.

Gina Garrubbo: I can't have just one!!! Invisibilia and How I Built This.

Favorite Tiny Desk?

Stephanie Witte: As an avid listener to Tiny Desk Concerts, I have been introduced to so many incredible musicians. However, the one concert that forever stands out to me is from 2013 when the men's choral group, Cantus, performed an African-American spiritual hymn, Wanting Memories (written by DC composer Ysaye Barnwell of Sweet Honey in the Rock); their collective voices paired with the stunning lyrics blew my doors off.

I think Tom Huizenga put it best when he wrote: "Listening to Cantus, you understand that there's something about a group of people singing that touches listeners on a very human level."

Gina Garrubbo: Peter Frampton, because I was there in person and just could not believe my luck in doing so.

Favorite places in the city?

Deborah Cowan: Little tucked away, off the beaten path, neighborhood restaurants. I particularly like the food scene in the Shaw neighborhood right now. I guess I'm a bit of a foodie!

Gina Garrubbo: My city is NYC, and it's impossible to have a favorite place, but Central Park is amazing.

Meg Goldthwaite: Memorial Bridge — I love to run across it and think about the connections that it represents, such as the unification of our country. Plus, it offers a stunning panorama of my hometown.

Anya Grundmann: Hiking Trails along the Potomac River.

Gemma Hooley: Theodore Roosevelt Island. The Nelson Mandela statue at the South African Embassy. The Taft Bridge lions.

What are your guilty pleasures?

Anya Grundmann: I like playing music with friends, for no other purpose than to enjoy it and be in each other's company. Sometimes there are ukuleles and melodicas involved.

First thing you do when you get to the office?

Loren Mayor: The first thing I do when I get to my desk is open a can of Fresca. I always have a case full of Fresca in my office. It's the perfect drink — no calories, no caffeine, and it works for breakfast, lunch, and snack time!

Gina Garrubbo: Tell Alexa to play the news.

Meg Goldthwaite: I take a deep breath. We have a big country to serve.

What emoji best represents you and why?

Marjorie Powell: I would be the thinking face emoji. My mind is always running. It multitasks. I can be listening intently to what is going on in the room and at the same time planning a way to resolve, support, or begin the process to execute on a need. It can be great at times, but other times it can make me get quite ahead of myself.

Gina Garrubbo: The good old smiley, because in this digital and serious world we need to stay human and add some brevity.

What is a question you wish you could be asked? Also, give us your answer.

Gina Garrubbo: Why I came to NPM to lead NPR's Corporate Sponsorship efforts?

I have always been a fan of NPR, but Jarl Mohn so impressed me with his vision and commitment to ensure that NPR has a strong and viable future that I knew that I wanted to be a part of that.

What do you love about public radio?

Marjorie Powell: Public radio is the best part of being American. It is a pure example of the freedom to share thoughts, opinion, fact and to question. It allows the public to engage with the storytelling in way that pricks the very center of curiosity embedded in human nature. I am a very curious person, a lifelong learner. Public radio feeds that need. I think it does that for millions of others as well.

Gina Garrubbo: I love the many voices and diversity of stories that NPR brings to me and other listeners. I am a superfan of NPR One and can't even say how many people I have turned on to it.

Meg Goldthwaite: It's free education for everyone.

Anya Grundmann: It's full of smart, curious, passionate people who want to make a difference.

Loren Mayor: I love the fact that we work every day to make the world a better place. Through our journalism and storytelling, we can make global stories feel personal and share personal stories that feel global. We make connections, we illuminate, we delight, and we satisfy curiosity. And in doing so we create a more civil and civic society. I feel deeply lucky to be part of that.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.