Ellen Breyer


Former President and CEO,
Hazelden Foundation

Ellen’s focus on international business started at London Business School where she completed the second year of her MBA program. This interest led to a marketing position in the international division of Campbell Soup Company where she worked on expanding the sales of one of its international brands. When she moved to Minneapolis from New York her career took a local turn, but volunteer commitments sustained her interest in international work. This was the beginning of an eventual shift for her from corporate to non-profit work and international business to international development.

A pivotal point in this transition was the opportunity to work for Freedom from Hunger. Ellen’s contribution was to write curriculum to help women with microloans start and grow their businesses. The highlight of this project was testing the material with village banking groups in Haiti. This business curriculum came into wide use in Africa, Asia, and South America as more micro-finance institutions embraced the financial and social benefits of including business education services with their financial products.

After completing this consulting project in 2001, Ellen considered staying in the field of micro-enterprise development, but an exciting alternative opportunity presented itself and she became the first woman CEO to lead the Hazelden Foundation, the largest non-profit addiction treatment center in the country. While Hazelden was primarily a healthcare provider, it also owned an international publishing business and offered an accredited graduate degree program that attracted practitioners from around the world. The expansion of Hazelden’s publishing business through international partnerships and the development of the graduate school from a modest local training program were highlights of her tenure as CEO.

Ellen served on the board of Freedom from Hunger for seven years and currently serves on the Grameen Foundation Board in Washington DC as well as several Minneapolis non-profit boards. She is an alum of the selective Harvard/Accion Financial Inclusion Program. Ellen and her husband, Jan, are also investors in MCE Social Capital, an International Impact Investment Fund.

Ellen earned a BA from The College of New Rochelle, and an MBA from The Stern School at New York University and London Business School.

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