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Kathy Magee

Co-Founder, President and CEO

Kathy Magee

Kathy Magee is the President and CEO of Operation smile, which she co-founded in 1982 with her husband, Dr. Bill Magee. She currently leads all aspects of the organization. As Co-Founder and a lifetime member of the Board of Directors, Kathy has been instrumental in shaping the organization’s future strategy and leading project design. She has grown and expanded many of Operation Smile’s signature initiatives, including student programs and Women in Medicine. 

In her 40+ years of work with Operation Smile, Kathy has traveled overseas extensively to expand in-country boards while cultivating key corporate, diplomatic, government and medical partnerships that enable Operation Smile to carry out its mission. She has fostered university partnerships and research with academic institutions, such as the University of Southern California through the International Family Study, which contributes to understanding the causes of cleft.

Kathy has also been deeply involved in Operation Smile Student Programs, which provide  opportunities for students to volunteer, engage and support Operation Smile’s work by raising funds and awareness. She led the International Student Leadership Conference that annually brings together more than 600 selected leaders from 35 countries until becoming President and CEO. 

Kathy, Bill and Operation Smile received the first $1 million Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 1996 and the Servitor Pacis Award from the Path to Peace Foundation in 1997. In 1999, the Magees received the Golden Plate Award from the American Academy of Achievement. In 2004, the Magees were awarded The Humanitarian Rose Award from The People’s Princess Charitable Foundation, Inc., in London. In 2007, USAID presented the Magees with the President’s Call to Service Award from President George W. Bush. In 2009, U.S. News and World Report named Kathy and Bill among “America’s Best Leaders.”

Kathy is the recipient of honorary degrees from Fordham University, Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland, Loyola University in Maryland, Old Dominion University, Misericordia University and Denison University and was inducted into the Alumni Association Hall of Fame of the University of Maryland in 2000. In 2014, she received a prestigious honorary doctorate from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. She has also remained active in the World of Children organization and serves as a member of the Hilton Prize Coalition Executive Committee.

Kathy helped secure Operation Smile’s future by establishing the Operation Smile Global Headquarters in Virginia Beach, Virginia, dedicated in 2013, as a permanent facility built in tribute to the humanitarian spirit and ongoing mission of cleft care and safe surgery around the world.

As a New Jersey native, Kathy received her B.S.N. from Misericordia University in Pennsylvania, her M.Ed. from the University of Maryland and her M.S.W. from Norfolk State University in Virginia. She also completed graduate work at the University of Virginia and the Jung Institute in Switzerland. She is a mother of five and grandmother to 14, all of whom participate in Operation Smile to promote service for the next generation.


It takes as little as $240 and as few as 45 minutes to provide life-changing surgery and a bright, beautiful new smile to a waiting child.