Carolyn Woo
Former CEO, Catholic Relief Services
Purdue Alumna 

Date: Tuesday, March 5
Time: 5 p.m. ET
Location: Stewart Center’s Fowler Hall
This event is free and open to the public with a general admission ticket. 

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Carolyn Woo was educated by missionary sisters in Hong Kong and came to Purdue University in 1972 as a foreign student with one year of funding. Thanks to scholarships and fellowships, she was able to complete her bachelor’s, master’s and PhD in strategy by 1979.  

After two years in industry, Woo was recruited back to Purdue as a faculty member and then administrator, first as director of the master’s programs in the School of Business and then as associate executive vice president for academic affairs. Under her leadership, the Krannert master’s program achieved a top 20 ranking in Businessweek, and she was cited as one of Change magazine’s Top Forty Leaders Under Forty.

From 1997 to 2011, Woo served as dean of Mendoza College at the University of Notre Dame. She built a team, process and culture designed to systematically improve teaching, pursue curricular innovations, enhance placement of students and embed ethics in all business disciplines. This resulted in the top ranking among undergraduate business schools by Businessweek/Bloomberg. 

In 2015, she was elected the first female chair of AACSB International (an accreditation association for business schools worldwide) and led the launch of the Principles for Responsible Management program with the United Nations.  

Woo left Notre Dame for Catholic Relief Services, serving as CEO from 2012-16. Launched in 1943 to help resettle refugees from war-torn Europe, the organization to this day remains fully engaged in responding to the plight of displaced people. CRS designs and implements over 1,000 programs annually to reduce poverty, diminish risk and foster prosperity, leading humanitarian relief and sustainable development efforts in over 100 countries and serving more than 100 million people each year.  

Areas of focus include emergency relief, microfinance, health systems, childhood development, education, agricultural productivity, the empowerment of women, refugee resettlement, peace building, capacity building of partners and beneficiaries, and impact assessment.   

Woo has been recognized for her teaching, research, service and leadership through numerous awards and honorary doctorates. In 2013, she was named one of the 500 Most Powerful People on the Planet by Foreign Policy magazine and one of 33 in the category “A Force for Good.” The same year, she also received the Catholic Press Association’s top honor for her column on spirituality.  

Woo has served on the boards of seven corporate enterprises in the United States and Europe, engaging in areas including global risk management, the regulation of utilities, AI-driven sustainable investing, community banking, retailing, auto components manufacturing and pharmaceutical distribution.     

Current and past Catholic boards on which she has served include Catholic University, University of Portland, University of Notre Dame Australia, National Catholic Education Association, Ascension Health System, Catholic Charities USA, Our Sunday Visitor and Holy Cross Family Ministries.   

In 2018, 2019 and 2021, Woo coordinated the Vatican Dialogues on Energy Transition, which convened CEOs of energy and investment companies in conversation with each other and Pope Francis. An outcome was a pair of joint statements by participants supporting the need for carbon pricing and proper disclosure.  

She also is a frequent contributor to “Give Us This Day” and the author of two books, “Working for a Better World” and “Rising: Learning from Women’s Leadership in Catholic Ministries.” 

I have now met many people, for different reasons, who are sidelined from reaching their potential. Education provides the key and access to knowledge, to opportunities, to livelihoods, to certain social standing in society, to the levers of change, and ultimately to a voice and a place in formal structures.

Carolyn Woo, in a 2013 interview with the Lumen Christi Institute 
Carolyn Woo