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Goodbye to AARP

After eight years as CEO, Bill Novelli says goodbye, handing the leadership baton to Barry Rand.

After nine years at AARP, eight as CEO, I am saying goodbye. Just as Horace Deets handed the baton to me in 2001, I am now handing off to Barry Rand, who will be an excellent steward of Ethel Percy Andrus’ legacy.

I started with three major goals: to make AARP the most successful and acknowledged organization in America for positive social change; to deliver on our promise to each member to help them make the most of life after 50; and to make AARP a world leader in global aging.

We haven’t accomplished them all, but we’ve come a long way. We also learned from what we didn’t accomplish. For example, the fight for health care reform in California fell short, but it helped us prepare for the national effort now under way.

At AARP, whether we’re working for change in Washington or Tallahassee or Trenton, or anywhere else across the country, we are sustained by the people behind us—you, our members. I see you at events, you write me and tell me what you think. I remember the chapter barbecue in Victor, Mont.; the kickoff of Divided We Fail in Des Moines, Iowa, with kids playing at the big conference table while we held our news conference; the busload of members from Binghamton, N.Y., who headed to our Social Security rally despite a broken defroster that left the windshield caked in ice.

I loved talking to you at our Life@50+ events in Chicago, Boston, San Diego and Dallas (after 9/11/01) and elsewhere. Often you would come up to me and say, “I’m a member and I want you to know ...” It was a wonderful experience that sustained and encouraged me.

My father was very proud of my work at AARP. Whenever I visited him at Country Meadows, right outside Bridgeville, Pa., our hometown, I would sit down with him and his friends, and we’d talk about the AARP issues of the day. They always had good advice.

Now it’s Barry Rand’s turn to lead us forward. He and I share a common belief that we, and AARP, can continue to make things better. I know he’ll do a great job.

As for me, I’m going to Georgetown University, as a distinguished professor (my parents would have liked that title) in the business school. I’ll teach leadership and management of nonprofit organizations, social responsibility and entrepreneurship, and I’ll stay very involved in health and social issues. And I expect to spend more time with my grandkids (we have five now, with twins on the way).

Serving as your chief executive officer has been one of the greatest privileges and best experiences of my life. But the time for change has come.

So, I bid my readers and all the members of AARP a fond farewell, and a heartfelt thank you. But believe me, I’ll continue as a great friend and missionary for AARP.

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