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Economic Club names Donna Zarcone president, CEO

DonnZarcone president CEO Economic Club Chicago.

Donna Zarcone, president and CEO of the Economic Club of Chicago.

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Updated: March 17, 2012 10:18AM

The Economic Club of Chicago named Donna F. Zarcone its new president and CEO on Wednesday.

Zarcone, 54, formerly led Harley-Davidson’s financial services business and ran her own strategic advisory firm.

Zarcone, who had been interim president since October, said she is passionate about the club’s mission of fostering community activity and leadership among its members.

“It’s important that business leaders be engaged in the community and its greater good,” she said. “That’s one of the things that makes Chicago special: Many of our business leaders are also great civic leaders.”

She has served on the club’s board for six years and held leadership posts in the past 12 years including treasurer, secretary and membership chair. She also has served as a member of the executive, nominating, finance and reception committees. She is the mother of three sons — twins who are juniors in college, one at Villanova University in Pennsylvania and the other at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the third a freshman at Grinnell College in Iowa.

Club President John A. Canning Jr. said in a letter to members that Zarcone had presided over the leadership transition period “with skill and enthusiasm.”

Canning said he appreciates that Zarcone can “spot issues” and offer recommendations to deal with them.

“I appreciate a self-starter,” he said.

Her strategic skills will be a key ingredient in one of her top priorities: spearheading a strategic review process.

Zarcone, one of more than 50 candidates for the position, showed that she “is very self-effacing and doesn’t have to be in the spotlight,” Canning said. “She is very comfortable working with senior executives and senior politicians.”

Zarcone’s knowledge of who knows who is valuable because club members often reach out to prominent people to speak at club events.

Indeed, Zarcone said she wants to ensure continued programs featuring top-tier speakers, identify ways the club can be “special and relevant” for the next generation of business leaders and update the club’s website, member database and other technological tools to better manage events and communicate with members.

Zarcone succeeds Grace Barry, who announced in October that she was retiring as president of the club after serving as its leader for 25 years.

Zarcone serves on the boards of CDW Corp., Cigna Corp., the Duchossois Group, Hyde Park Angels and the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. She also is a member of the Chicago Network, the Young Presidents’ Organization and the Commercial Club of Chicago.

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