MH NEWS: Barbara Cassani Feature

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Note: This article was written by senior soccer player Terry Orr and originally appeared in the November 19 issue of the MH News.

SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. (Nov. 19, 2009) – From Frances Perkins to Susan Lori Parks, Mount Holyoke College has produced some impressive women. Barbara Cassani ’82 is no exception. As a leading businesswomen and active leader for the 2012 Summer Olympics, Cassani’s education and drive have taken her to the top.

She graduated magna cum laude in 1982 with a major in international relations. Her Mount Holyoke life didn’t end there, as she later became a trustee for the college. She also continued her post-Mount Holyoke education at the Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, where she completed a master’s degree in public affairs. Her schooling in international relations took her to Washington, D.C. to work at Coopers & Lybrand, one of the world’s largest privately owned organizations. After working in their international division, Cassani switched careers and took a position with international flight mega-company British Airways. It was at British Airways that Cassani’s management and eye for business took flight.

While at British Airways, other airlines were establishing flights that attempted to facilitate more affordable travel. This competition inspired Cassani’s development of British Airways own low-cost airline. Cassani’s leadership and innovative ideas earned her the task of creating such an airline. With this job, Cassani soared and took a small European airline – previously bought by British Airways – and transformed it into Go Fly, a budget flight part of British Airways. Her part in creating Go Fly led her to become a leading businesswoman. In 2002, Cassani won the Veuve Clicquot Businesswoman of the Year Award, which has been described as one of the UK’s most prestigious Business awards. She has also appeared in Wall Street Journal Europe’s list of the twenty-five most successful businesswomen.

Go Fly went on to have a successful subsidiary life and eventually merged with EasyJet. During this merger, Cassani’s interests took a new direction and flew into sports. In 2003, she was chosen to head London’s bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics. Although unknown in the Olympic arena, her experience in both business and management proved just the ticket for the Olympic organizing committee, as she led the committee through the Olympic bidding process. Under Cassani’s leadership, a blueprint for the Olympics was created, including London’s plans for the location and infrastructure of the facilities. This plan took London to the top five cities under consideration. Cassani transferred her chair role to Lord Coe, Olympic gold medalist in the 1500 m run, who eventually headed London to its successful selection as the host site for the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Cassani’s success in the business field only continues, most recently with Jury’s Inn Hotels. Her ambition and intelligence have moved her up the work ladder as she continues to prove her many talents and professionalism. She will return to Mount Holyoke this weekend, speaking about leadership and taking an active role in the 2009 Division III National Field Hockey Championship. Her participation in spearheading an airline, various chairing positions, and the 2012 Summer Olympics makes Cassani a perfect role model for young women – athletes and non-athletes alike – across the country.