Kathryn Roberts became CEO Emeritus of Ecumen in 2019, after serving as President and CEO since 2003 and transforming the organization into one of the country’s leading nonprofit providers of diversified senior housing and services. As CEO, Kathryn became an international thought leader on aging, rising to the role of Chair of the National Board of Directors of LeadingAge in 2016 and being named one of the 2017 Top 50 “Influencers in Aging” by Next Avenue.
As CEO Emeritus, Kathryn leads Ecumen Philanthropy and continues her work to create a more age-friendly world as she supports the CEO transition. In early 2018, she informed the board of her decision to step away from day-to-day leadership and work part-time.
Under Kathryn’s leadership, Ecumen has been recognized for its innovation, bringing new empowering technologies to seniors and their families; developing a nationally acclaimed program in dementia care; expanding housing options to new markets and creating a national senior housing development business; and shaping a workplace culture that has led to Ecumen being named 10 times as one of the "Best Places to Work" by the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal and has also been named one of Minnesota’s Top Workplaces by the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Minnesota Monthly Magazine.
Kathryn has a distinguished career in public service and leadership and is one of the few people to be appointed to leadership positions by a Democratic, Republican and Independent Governor. The Minneapolis Star Tribune once called her "state government's #1 management doctor." She led the transformation of several Minnesota state agencies, including the Minnesota Zoo, which she was appointed to lead at age 34. Kathryn, who had no prior zoological experience, became the country’s first woman to lead a major zoo. Through entrepreneurial approaches, the zoo’s attendance and revenues reached all-time highs. One of several innovative partnerships that occurred under her leadership was the creation of the only environmental studies high school located within a zoo.
As chairwoman of Minnesota’s professional sports agency, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, she led efforts to sue Major League Baseball and successfully stop contraction of the Minnesota Twins. In 2008, Kathryn was appointed by Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty to a five-year term as chair of the Minnesota Veterans Health Care Advisory Council. She also served on the Governor’s Veterans Long-Term Care Advisory Commission. She was recognized by the University of Minnesota’s College of Education as one of its "100 Distinguished Alumni" for the College's first 100 years. She also was named in 2008 as one of the Twin Cities’ "Best Brains" by Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine. Kathryn serves on the boards of LeadingAge in Washington, D.C., and VocalEssence in Minneapolis. Prior to joining Ecumen, Kathryn served as vice president of the Minneapolis Foundation, where she administered a $30 million annual grant program.
Kathryn earned her B.A. in Psychology from the University of Minnesota, her M.S. in Special Education from Mankato State University and her Ph.D. in Educational Administration from the University of Minnesota.