Ellen Heffernan

Photograph of Ellen Heffernan.

President of Spelman Johnson

Ellen Heffernan is president of Spelman Johnson, a premier executive search firm committed to serving education, advocacy associations, and social impact organizations. Ellen provides strategic and operational leadership of the firm and oversees its presidential/CEO search practice. Under her direction,  Spelman Johnson has emerged as one of the nation’s most respected executive search firms. Over the course of its 30-year history, Spelman Johnson has conducted more than 1,700 searches in partnership with institutions of higher education, independent schools, professional associations, and non-profit agencies across the country. All of the firm’s consultants have significant experience in education and non-profit administration and executive search, which enables them to understand the strategic challenges and cultures of their client organizations, deliver robust and diverse candidate pools, and provide an unrivaled level of client engagement.  

In addition to leading Spelman Johnson and working directly with clients on  search assignments, Ellen serves on the faculty of several leadership development programs, including the American Association of Blacks in Higher Education (AABHE) Leadership and Mentoring Institute, NASPA—Senior Student  

Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, and College Board Middle State’s  Mid-Level Institute professional development institutes. Ellen has published numerous articles and is valued for her thought leadership on talent acquisition, building organizational capacity, and issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. She serves as an adviser to governing boards, presidents and chancellors,  and other campus and system leaders and policymakers.  

Ellen joined Spelman Johnson in 1996, after a 10-year career in higher education that included positions at Smith College and the University of Massachu setts Amherst. A recipient of NASPA’s Pillar of the Profession Award, given for sustained professional distinction in higher education, Ellen has received many honors and awards, including the AABHE’s President’s Award and the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International’s Parthenon  Award and S. Earl Thompson Award, to name a few. She currently serves on the  board of the National Association of Executive Recruiters and is a member of  the American Council on Education