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Strive to Inspire

Heidi Hayden’s journey from the United States Marine Corps to Chief People Officer at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum

by Jennifer Joniak '15


Graduate Management Studies director Charles Pendola presents the Thomas A. Doherty Ethical Leadership Award to Heidi Hayden ’98, M.S ’05, at the GMS Networking dinner on April 23. (photo by Robert Amsler)


Thomas Doherty was a leader in the business community and a role model to countless individuals. A 20-year member and former chairman of the St. Joseph’s College Board of Trustees, Doherty died in 2007, but his legacy lives on. The Thomas A. Doherty Ethical Leadership Award is given annually to an alumnus of SJC’s Graduate Management Studies (GMS) program to recognize an individual’s commitment to ethical values and the practice of those values in his or her career.

This year’s award recipient, Heidi Hayden ’98, M.S. ’05, has worked in human resources for over 25 years and has served as a role model for others in the field. She was presented with the award at the annual GMS Networking Dinner, held on April 23 at Lombardi’s On the Bay in Patchogue.

A native of Farmingville, Long Island, Hayden built a strong foundation for herself during her four years in the United States Marine Corps, and honed her leadership skills throughout her career, leading to her current role as Chief People Officer at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center.

Hayden enlisted in the Marines in her senior year at Cypress Lake High School in Ft. Myers, Florida, in search for stability to counteract her difficult home life, and served from 1983 until 1987. “I felt the Marine Corps would get me away from home and provide me with structure, discipline and a direction,” she says.

After completing basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina, she went to school for her Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) at Camp Johnson in North Carolina. Hayden’s MOS was an administrative clerk, and she was stationed at Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington, D.C., and the Marine Corps Air Station in Tustin, California.

As an administrative clerk, Hayden’s responsibilities ranged from basic office duties to preparation for safety in the case of a biological and chemical weapon attack — a varied résumé, to say the least. She took away a number of lessons from her time in the Corps, including, “Don’t go to your boss with a problem; go with a solution,” and “That which does not kill you makes you stronger.”

Hayden has been working as a leader in human resources departments for more than two decades. When her time in the Marine Corps came to an end, she worked in California for a large, family-owned real estate company. Eventually she returned home to Long Island, where she was born and raised, and worked for Allstate Insurance in Farmingville. She also worked at Nikon and for two law firms in New York City before she started her current job at the 9/11 Memorial.

In her position as Chief People Officer, Hayden oversees all human resources operations, including payroll, hiring, recruiting, orientation and onboarding, safety, compensation, training and employee relations, as well as strategy. In addition to working full time as the head of human resources, she is also an adjunct professor at SJC Long Island and, on occasion, SJC Brooklyn for the Graduate Management Studies program.

Hayden earned both a bachelor’s degree in organizational management and a master’s degree in management with a concentration in human resources from St. Joseph’s College. “I did not plan to come back to SJC for my master’s degree,” she said. “What brought me back to SJC were the foundations of the program — ethical and social responsibility, managerial abilities and, most importantly, application of course concepts to the business world.”

Since she has much experience in the field, Hayden frequently shares her own experiences to help her students succeed. Some of the lessons she stresses are, “If you are going to do something, the only choice is to do it well,” and “A leader is someone who takes you to a place you would not have gone to on your own; strive to inspire your employees to come along with you to places they may not get on their own.”

Hayden spends a great deal of time giving back to her community and helping others. She served as the highway superintendent and chair of the zoning board of appeals in her village and is also involved in the Marine Corps League, a benevolent association for active and former Marines.

“I am a strong believer in giving back and helping others,” Hayden says. “Receiving the Thomas A. Doherty Ethical Leadership Award tells me that my interest in doing the right thing has not gone unnoticed. I am honored to have received this award.”

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