A. Barry Rand, chairman of the Board of Trustees at Howard University and a nationally recognized agent for social change, has been tapped as AARP’s new chief executive officer, it was announced Thursday.
Rand, 64, a former top executive at Xerox and Avis Rent A Car, will succeed Bill Novelli when he takes over the association’s top post on April 6. He will become AARP’s first African American CEO.
According to an AARP press release, Rand is “a catalyst for social change and inclusion in the workplace.” He was selected to lead AARP after a national search that lasted nearly a year.
Rand was recognized for his 30 years at Xerox, where he rose from a sales representative to executive vice president for worldwide operations. During his tenure, he worked to ensure that women and minorities had opportunities for advancement.
As Rand’s efforts gained recognition throughout corporate America, he was asked to serve on a committee that shared best practices with other companies working to improve diversity and inclusion. That committee eventually became the Executive Leadership Council, the nation’s preeminent organization that recognizes the strengths, success, contributions and impact of African American corporate business leaders.
But Rand also knows firsthand about the nation’s health and financial security challenges facing Americans. He was a caregiver to his father for the last eight years of his life, an experience that fueled his passion for the critical issues that have long been the centerpiece of AARP’s agenda.
“AARP and I have long shared the belief that health care and long-term financial security should be the goals of this nation, goals we all have an obligation to help achieve—from government to corporate America to the individual,” Rand says.
“Lifetime health care and financial security are terms far too many believe are out of reach; not just for older Americans or aging Americans, but for all Americans,” he adds. “While we have come far because of the efforts of AARP, we have much left to achieve. I look forward to building on these successes as we continue our work in Congress and in state capitols across the nation. The fight will not be easy, but if I’ve learned one thing in my career, it’s that nothing worthwhile ever is.”
Like Rand, Novelli knows something about fighting the good fight. During his leadership at AARP for the last eight years, he has successfully fought against efforts to privatize Social Security and later worked across party lines to play a critical role in creating Medicare Part D, which offers millions of people more affordable access to prescription drugs.
Novelli also brought together organizations with vastly different views, from labor and business to political and entertainment leaders, in his bid to launch Divided We Fail. The bipartisan campaign urges the nation’s leaders to work together to make sure that all Americans have access to health care and long-term financial security.
Next month Rand will take over that charge, and according to former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Jack Kemp, Rand is the man for the job. He called the Howard University board chairman a gifted leader and a strong advocate whose “hallmark is inclusion.”
“He has a unique talent of extracting the best from everyone, bringing people together, getting them involved and committed to achieving the stated goals,” Kemp, a former congressman from New York, said in a statement. “Mr. Rand is the quintessential servant leader who will be a champion for social change enhancing the quality of services and living for AARP members and all Americans over 50.”
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., says he is looking forward to working with Rand to “make great progress” on health care reform and other issues.
“We can take enormous steps toward making quality health care affordable for all,” Menendez says. “AARP has always stood for ensuring that Americans 50 and older have affordable and quality health care, economic security and new opportunities, and I look forward to AARP building upon this enormously successful history under Mr. Rand’s guidance.”
Jacob Lozada, a member of the board at AARP, calls Rand an innovator and team builder whose appointment “will be great for AARP.”
“If one were to look at what he has done at the corporations he has served, in terms of diversity, I am sure he will work very, very hard to increase outreach to Hispanics, and to make AARP an organization that truly reflects America,” Lozada says. “He will be great for our community. We should rejoice at Barry’s selection, no doubt about that.”
Monica Lozano, publisher and CEO of La Opinion, also lauded Rand’s selection for his “demonstrated commitment to organizational inclusion.”
“I am confident that under his leadership, AARP will expand on its already stellar track record of providing resources, programs and services to America's diverse populations,” she says.
At Howard University, Rand created the Helen Matthews Rand Scholarship, named for his mother, a teacher and a principal. The scholarship provides full tuition and a laptop computer to exceptional students pursuing a degree in education.
Through his work at Howard University, a private, historically black university, Rand has shown how much he cares about society and the future of Americans young and old, says university president Sidney A. Ribeau.
“Here at Howard, a not-for-profit, it’s a mission of love and of giving back. We’re working with students in medical school and law school, preparing them for professional careers and a life of service, and working in ways to help them strengthen their community. AARP does similar kinds of things. Creating opportunities for seniors to have a higher quality of life in an environment of change and unpredictability,” Ribeau says. “Rand will be part of that mission.”
Rand, a native of Washington, D.C., and a father of two grown children, says he is looking forward to working with Novelli to create a seamless transition for AARP.
The board also praised Novelli for his contributions to the association. Novelli will be joining Georgetown University as a Distinguished Professor at the McDonough School of Business. He will teach leadership and management of nonprofit organizations, social responsibility and social entrepreneurship.
Carole Fleck is a senior editor at the AARP Bulletin.