In Memoriam: Emerita Trustee Jane Cahill Pfeiffer

Author: Dennis Brown

Jane Pfeiffer. Notre Dame Archives.

Jane Cahill Pfeiffer, a University of Notre Dame Trustee Emerita and former chairwoman of NBC’s board of directors, died Tuesday (March 5) in Vero Beach, Florida. She was 86.

“As the second woman to be elected to the University’s Board of Trustees, Jane’s impact on governance at Notre Dame was critical,” said Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s president. “But perhaps even more significant was the inspiration we received through friendship with this remarkable person.”

Pfeiffer served from 1978 to 1980 as the first woman to chair NBC’s board. During her tenure, she reduced the number of directors by half and reorganized the news division. In 2002 she was recognized as one of the 50 leading women in radio and television.

A graduate of the University of Maryland, Pfeiffer began her career at IBM, serving in numerous positions of increasing responsibility for 21 years, leaving in 1976 as vice president of communications and government relations. She then began working as an independent management consultant with clients such as Bank of America, Bethlehem Steel, Yale University and RCA. It was her work with the latter, which owned NBC at the time, that eventually led to her appointment as chair of the network’s board. She returned to consulting after leaving NBC.

Born in Washington, D.C., Pfeiffer took graduate courses at Georgetown University and the Catholic University of America after earning her bachelor’s degree, then began her career at IBM. Her husband, the late Ralph Pfeiffer, also was a longtime executive with IBM.

Appointed to Notre Dame’s Board of Trustees in 1974, Pfeiffer was elevated to emeritus status in 2003. The University conferred an honorary doctor of laws degree on her in 1991.

Pfeiffer also received an honorary degree, as well as the Distinguished Alumnus Award, from her alma mater. She served on the board of Maryland’s foundation as well as on numerous corporations, including Ashland Inc., International Paper Co., J. C. Penney and MONY Group. She was a senior adviser of the Conference Board and a member of the Economic Club.

In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson made Pfeiffer the first woman to be selected as a White House Fellow. She also served on the President’s Advisory Commission on Arms Control and Disarmament, the National Leadership Commission on Health Care and the Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.

Arrangements are pending.