Special Olympics Gets International Boss

Special Olympics now has an international chief executive officer, a new position, who will be responsible for the organization’s global team of 250 staff members, facilitating 5 million athletes across 170 countries with 100,000 competitions annually.

Mary Davis, from Ireland, is the first person from outside the United States to head Special Olympics in its nearly 50-year history. She will split time between Dublin, Ireland and Special Olympics’ global headquarters in Washington, D.C., according to the organization’s announcement.

Davis had been serving as acting CEO since October and has served as a managing director and regional vice president of Europe and Eurasia in Dublin since 2009. In that role, Davis oversaw Special Olympics’ growth in 58 countries in Europe and Central Asia.

“Mary Davis has been a champion for the rights and inclusion of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities all her working life,” said Timothy Shriver, chairman, in a release. “She is a proven leader who knows how to envision a goal, craft a strategy for achieving it, and most importantly, lead a team in reaching it.”

Davis’ relationship with the organization dates back to 1978, when she started off as a volunteer coach. She served as CEO of the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Ireland, the first time the event was held outside of the United States.

The event earned Davis Ireland’s Person of the Year award in 2003 and she served on the country’s Council of State from 2004 to 2011.

“Every position I have held in my nearly 40 years with the Special Olympics movement has prepared me for this role – the role of a lifetime,” said Davis. “I have spent my career following our athletes in helping them break down every barrier placed in their way and mobilizing a nation to prove what I already know – that Special Olympics is changing lives every day through sport and unifying our world in a way no other organization can do.”