DALLAS – The president and the founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure are both stepping down from their roles, the nation’s largest breast cancer foundation said in announcing a major leadership shakeup Wednesday. The high-profile departures come in the wake of continuing fallout from Komen’s decision earlier this year to briefly end funding for Planned Parenthood.
President Liz Thompson will leave Komen next month and founder Nancy Brinker, who has long been the public face of the charity, will relinquish her chief executive’s role for a position focused on fundraising and strategic planning, according to a statement from the Dallas-based organization.
It’s the latest shakeup since news emerged in January that Komen had decided to eliminate its funding for Planned Parenthood for breast-cancer screening. Komen said it made the decision because Planned Parenthood was the focus of a congressional investigation, which was launched at the urging of anti-abortion activists.
Komen restored the funding after a three-day firestorm, but it didn’t quell the criticism. At least five other high-ranking executives also have resigned, and organizers of many Race for the Cure events saw their participation numbers drop.
Some Komen affiliates were among those publicly opposed to cutting off Planned Parenthood.
Brinker founded the organization in 1982, two years after her sister, Susan G. Komen, died of breast cancer. Thompson joined the group in 2008 to head research and scientific programs, and she was promoted to president in 2010.
According to the statement, which makes no reference to the Planned Parenthood decision or fallout, Thompson said the time was right for her to pursue other opportunities.
Brinker praised Thompson’s work in expanding Komen’s influence in scientific, community health, advocacy and global programs. As for her changed role, Brinker said she assumed the chief executive’s duties at the request of the foundation’s board in 2009.
“Three years into that role, and 32 years after my promise to my sister to end breast cancer, I want now to focus on Susan G. Komen’s global mission and raising resources to bring our promise to women all around the world,” she said.
Two members of the Komen board of directors also announced their resignations Wednesday.
It is unclear whether a management shift at Komen will be enough to resuscitate its reputation and the fundraising power of the pink ribbon, said Daniel Borochoff, president of the Chicago-based watchdog group CharityWatch.
“Bringing in new people who weren’t part of the bad decisions will help them be more focused on their mission,” he said. “But it does depend who they pick.”