Melanie Kusin Rowe of Korn Ferry Dies at 71

Melanie Kusin Rowe, vice chair of the Korn Ferry executive search firm and a champion of inclusivity for C-suite and board placements, died suddenly in Austin due to a brain aneurysm on Feb. 18. She was 71.

Rowe worked on multiple fronts for global women’s initiatives and had a strong track record of placing women and diversity candidates in chief executive officer and board roles. Through her recruiting career, Rowe interacted with the top echelons of Fortune 500 corporations including retailers, restaurants, beauty and luxury brands including Hermès, Chanel and Estée Lauder, among others.

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“Melanie was not only a corporate power house, she was a family powerhouse,” her brother Gary Kusin, told WWD. “Melanie was the de facto matriarch of the family. She mentored all of her nieces and nephews and each could recall incidents where they went to her for advice.

“Everyone who knew Melanie considered her their best friend,” Gary Kusin said.

“Melanie will be remembered for her joyous laugh, quick sense of humor, magical intuition, boundless spirit, innate kindness and generosity,” said Joanne Teichman, cofounder and managing director of Ylang 23 and a close friend of Rowe’s since childhood.

“She genuinely saw beauty in everything and everyone,” Teichman said. “Traveling the globe from Africa to Europe to India, Melanie was compelled to hear the stories of everyone along her journey and took delight in their humanity, having an uncanny ability to meet everyone wherever they were.”

“Melanie exemplified the ideal leader for women’s advancement — gracious, intelligent, elegant and powerful. She was a role model and inspiration for me throughout my career,” said Dr. Macrene Alexiades, founder of Macrene Actives skin care.

Rowe graduated from Tulane University with an MBA and set her sights on a career in advertising in New York. Having a keen sense of people and an innate set of people skills, she transitioned to executive search with Russell Reynolds Associates, later Heidrick & Struggles, and finally to Korn Ferry where she worked for the past 14 years, including serving as vice chair, leading CEO and board placements, while also working on leadership transitions.

Rowe was a very visible figure across the retail and fashion industries, as a regular at major industry conferences and author of numerous articles and research focusing on CEO succession and boards.

Rowe is survived by her husband Roger; her daughter Avery Rowe Pollock and husband Ben Pollock and their two children Javi and Lucia, and three brothers Michael, David and Gary Kusin.

A celebration of Rowe’s life will be announced later. The family requests that donations honoring Rowe be directed to Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas.

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