A Profile of Sharon Kelly Hake: A Former DuPont Co. executive in Delaware who is president and CEO of Great Dames, which develops leaders
Sharon Hake takes the lead.
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One Great Dame
When Sharon Kelly Hake and her six siblings gathered around the dinner table, their father routinely asked each child the same question: “What did you do today to justify your existence?”
Anticipating the question, the children would grow nervous. “Of course, we never had a good enough answer,” says the Overbrook, Pa., native. “How do you answer that when you’re 8 or 9 years old? But he really did challenge us.”
As she grew up, Hake continually contemplated the question, even after she earned a bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State University and a master’s from Temple University—and even after a nearly 30-year successful career with the DuPont Co., eight years of which were spent working closely with CEO Ellen Kullman. “I hit 50, and I realized that I never really answered that question very well,” says Hake, who was a global marketing and strategy leader at DuPont.
Today, Hake would have much to say at the Kelly family dinner table. She is president and CEO of Great Dames, which seeks to develop leadership skills in women—and men—through workshops, coaching and “discovery circles,” small, salon-type get-togethers focused on a topic. Great Dames rallies participants around nonprofit causes, such as collecting coats for homeless shelters, and Hake and her team apply their own leadership skills to client projects.
It’s a lot to wrap your brain around. Suffice it to say that Great Dames, founded in 2009, is a convergence of Hake’s passions. “She really cares a lot about people,” says first lady Carla Markell, who worked with Hake on a project to promote volunteerism in the state. “She’s very tenacious and good at figuring out how her skill can be used to elevate a project to the next level. She’s also skilled at communicating and reaching people to make an effort more effective.”
Mary Dupont would agree. Dupont, director of financial empowerment in the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, first met Hake at a volunteerism conference. “Everybody was sitting around, chatting and waiting to get started when Sharon walked in the room,” Dupont recalls. “I sort of saw the electricity surrounding her. I said to myself, ‘I’ve got to meet this person.’ She is so responsive and accessible.”
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