Holiday Hart McKiernan

McKiernan served at Lumina Foundation from 2003 to 2023

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Holiday Hart McKiernan, J.D., served as Lumina’s executive vice president and chief operating officer until her retirement in 2023. McKiernan oversaw operations, legal affairs, and board governance. She also served as acting CEO while President and CEO Jamie Merisotis was on sabbatical in 2019. Read her reflections on retirement: Leadership is about service first.

Her work has included exploring the Bologna Process and the implications this reform effort might have for U.S. higher education. McKiernan shaped Lumina’s approach to social-impact investing and has become a frequent speaker and thought leader in that area. She speaks frequently on governance, legal, and policy issues related to nonprofit organizations and higher education.

McKiernan began her career practicing law with a concentration on nonprofit and tax-exempt organizations. Before joining Lumina in 2003, she was executive director and counsel for Alpha Chi Omega, a national sorority, and advised universities on how to reduce high-risk behavior among students.

McKiernan has co-authored several journal articles, including “Making the Implicit Explicit: Demonstrating  the Value Added of Higher Education by a Qualifications Framework,” in The Journal of College and University Law. She wrote “Higher Education and the American Workforce” for Trusteeship, the magazine of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges.

She served on the boards of DePauw University, Christian Theological Seminary, and St. Vincent Foundation. She also is on Antioch University’s Board of Governors, and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy’s Board of Visitors.

McKiernan received her bachelor of arts from DePauw University and her law degree from Indiana University.

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Case Study: Navigating a CEO Sabbatical

Whether planned or unexpected, absences at the top of your organization can lead to confusion, internal strife and even organizational paralysis. At Lumina Foundation, where we support quality, equitable education and training beyond high school, I had the opportunity to add the “interim CEO” tag to my role as chief operating officer and general counsel. I did this while our CEO, Jamie Merisotis, took a six-month sabbatical in London.