The industry expressed shock and puzzlement after the Gemological Institute of America announced that Donna M. Baker, its longtime president and CEO, had abruptly resigned “due to differing views on the direction of GIA.”
GIA spokesman Stephen Morisseau declined to comment on how the board of governors’ vision differed from Baker’s.
Even people inside GIA, where Baker has been generally seen as a popular and successful chief executive, told JCK the announcement was unexpected and mystifying.
GIA board members privately praised Baker’s performance and business acumen, but declined to provide more details.
The departure of Baker, who headed the institute for seven years and appeared at last week’s JCK Las Vegas show, was so sudden that she didn’t even say goodbye to the staff. Her resignation was instead announced by current board of governors chair Susan M. Jacques, president and CEO of Borsheims, who has stepped in immediately as GIA’s interim president and CEO.
Jacques, currently based in Omaha, Neb., will be “spending a significant amount of time” in Carlsbad, Calif., during her interim stint, Morisseau says.
The organization is now conducting a search for a permanent replacement, but gave no timetable for when it will be completed.
“I am sure many of you will have concerns or questions,” Jacques’ email to GIA staff stated. “Please discuss them with your manager, bearing in mind that they may have the same concerns and questions.”
“Any change in senior management is difficult,” it continued. “I ask that everyone focus on their responsibilities and on providing the best service we can to our laboratory clients, students, stakeholders and the public. “
Baker, a lawyer and former nun with a master’s degree in business, joined GIA in 2001 as vice president and general counsel. She was appointed president in 2006 after the resignation of longtime head William E. Boyajian. She was the first woman to head the organization. In 2008, she was also named CEO.
Among Baker’s achievements has been spearheading the GIA lab’s international expansion.
Tom Moses, senior vice president of laboratory and research, will still oversee GIA’s lab operations. Bev Hori, vice president of education and chief learning officer, will lead GIA’s gemological and industry education efforts.
The statement said that “no other management changes are planned.”
Susan Jacques (interim) 2013 –
Donna Baker 2006–2013
William Boyajian 1986–2006
Glenn Nord 1983–1986
Richard Liddicoat 1952–1983
Robert M. Shipley 1931–1952