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209: Interview with Co-Founder & President of Operation Smile, Kathy Magee

Kathy Magee HEADSHOT - Edited

Kathy Magee founded Operation Smile in 1982 with her husband, Dr. Bill Magee, and currently serves as its president on a full-time, volunteer basis. Kathy is also a lifetime member of the Board of Directors, overseeing funding and long-held organizational relationships. Kathy shapes future strategy and leads project design within medical mission programming and the education, training and student departments.

Kathy travels overseas extensively to expand in-country boards while cultivating key corporate, diplomatic, government and medical partnerships that enable Operation Smile to carry out its mission. She fosters university partnerships and research with academic institutions, such as the University of Southern California through the International Family Study, which contributes to understanding the causes of cleft.

Kathy is deeply involved in Operation Smile Student Programs, which provides opportunities for students to volunteer, engage and support Operation Smile’s work by raising funds and awareness. She leads the International Student Leadership Conference that annually brings together more than 600 selected leaders from 35 countries.

Kathy, Bill and Operation Smile received the first $1 million Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 1996 and the Servitor Pacis Award from the Path to Peace Foundation in 1997. In 1999, the Magees received the Golden Plate Award from the American Academy of Achievement. In 2004, the Magees were awarded The Humanitarian Rose Award from The People’s Princess Charitable Foundation, Inc., in London. In 2007, USAID presented the Magees with the President’s Call to Service Award from President George W. Bush. In 2009, U.S. News and World Report named Kathy and Bill among “America’s Best Leaders.”

Kathy is the recipient of honorary degrees from Fordham University, Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland, Loyola University in Maryland, Old Dominion University, Misericordia University and Denison University and was inducted into the Alumni Association Hall of Fame of the University of Maryland in 2000. In 2014, she received a prestigious honorary doctorate from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. She has also remained active in the World of Children organization and serves as a member of the Hilton Prize Coalition Executive Committee.

Kathy helped secure Operation Smile’s future by establishing the Operation Smile Global Headquarters in Virginia Beach, Virginia, dedicated in 2013, as a permanent facility built in tribute to the humanitarian spirit and ongoing mission of cleft care and safe surgery around the world.

As a New Jersey native, Kathy received her B.S.N. from Misericordia University in Pennsylvania, her M.Ed. from the University of Maryland and her M.S.W. from Norfolk State University in Virginia. She also completed graduate work at the University of Virginia and the Jung Institute in Switzerland. She is a mother of five and grandmother to 14, all of whom participate in Operation Smile to promote service for the next generation.

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