After 28 years with the American Cancer Society, something she never expected happened to Jeanne Walsh: she was diagnosed with chordoma, a rare cancer that occurs in the bones of the skull base and spine.
That was in February 2017, and required two surgeries, and treatments from May till the end of July, not in her Capital Region home, but in Boston. Walsh retired in November, but after the first of the year, knew she wanted to return to work.
On April 2, Walsh began working as the executive director of the American Heart Association in the Capital Region. In this position, Walsh oversees a staff of three and leads the Albany office to raise $1 million and improve heart and brain health in a 14-county area.
“I wanted to have an encore career of something that was impactful and wanted to continue to make a difference for people,” Walsh said of accepting the position at the American Heart Association. “The American Heart Association has the gravitas and brand that people know. I hold it in as high a regard as I do the American Cancer Society. Heart disease and stroke affect so many people. I’m looking forward to building strong relationships with the key volunteers who help the organization, growing our brand in the community, and engaging more people in our events, so we can continue to grow our mission.”
During her 28 years at he American Cancer Society, Walsh held nine different positions, beginning in an entry level position, and retiring as the senior vice president of corporate and community engagement for the eastern division, which is New York and New Jersey.
“I’m most proud of the development of the Chinese Unit in Queens,” Walsh said of her time with ACS. “It is an office where people speak Mandarin and Cantonese, and where we fight cancer on the grassroots level. I was also involved in raising the money to open a Hope Club in Rochester. We worked closely with the University of Rochester and other corporations to get that Hope Club started. I was also the lead for the whole division related to the the Cancer Prevention Study III. We achieved 120 percent of our goal, getting people between the ages of 30 and 65, mainly men who have never had cancer, to participating in a 10-year study.”
Walsh also worked locally to help Gilda’s Club become the Hope Club.
How has having had cancer affected her?
“I look at life so differently,” she said. “Things that used to bother me don’t anymore. Things I value, I value.”
For all her good work with the American Cancer Society, and for her positive attitude while fighting cancer, the American Cancer Society gave Walsh the Beacon of Hope Award at its Gala of Hope in April.
“That was an incredibly emotional experience,” Walsh said.
“Jeanne is a non-profit leader with over 28 years with the American Cancer Society and 14 years as a member of the Executive Leadership Team at ACS,” said James Devlin, senior vice president of development for the Eastern Region of the American Heart Association. “She brings tremendous experience leading teams, working with volunteers and managing through change. I am delighted to have Jeanne join the AHA family and help elevate what is already an incredibly strong group of volunteers and staff.”
Since joining the Heart Association, Walsh has been part of the Go Red for Women Luncheon and the Capital Region Heart Walk and Run.
“I’m so impressed with the Heart Association events I’ve seen so far,” Walsh said. “The Go Red for Women movement really shows how women can bond together to make changes. We’re also innovative – we have a new event in the fall called CycleNation, a stationary cycling event that is active and improves health.”
Walsh is from Massapequa. She graduated from SUNY Cortland, and she and her husband John, a native of Loudonville, live in Guilderland. They have two grown children, Jack and Jenna, who live in New York City.