Bonnie McElveen-Hunter

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The Honorable
Bonnie McElveen-Hunter
Bonnie McEleevn-Hunter.jpg
Bonnie McElveen-Hunter and her mother, Madeline Bonneau McElveen
Commander Grand Cross of the Order of the Lion of Finland
29th United States Ambassador to Finland
In office
November 5, 2001 – December 15, 2003
Appointed by George W. Bush
Preceded by Eric S. Edelman
Succeeded by Earle I. Mack
Personal details
Born Mary Bonnaeu McElveen
(1950-06-29) June 29, 1950 (age 66)
Columbia, South Carolina
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Bynum Merritt Hunter
Children Bynum Merritt Hunter II
Education Bellevue High School
Alma mater Stephens College
Occupation businesswoman, diplomat, philanthropist
Known for U.S. Ambassador to Finland
Chair of the American Red Cross
Founder & CEO of Pace Communications
18th Miss Nebraska USA
Religion Presbyterian[1][2]
Awards Commander Grand Cross of the Order of the Lion of Finland
Ellis Island Medal of Honor
North Carolina Award

Mary Bonneau "Bonnie" McElveen-Hunter (June 29, 1950) is an American businesswoman, philanthropist, diplomat and socialite who is the first female Chair of the Board of Governors of the American Red Cross.[3][4] She is the founder and CEO of Pace Communications, a publishing company, and was the U.S. Ambassador to Finland[5] from 2001 to 2003. She also served as the finance chairwoman of Elizabeth Dole's campaign for the Republican nomination for U.S. President.[6]

Early life[edit]

Mary Bonneau McElveen was born in Columbia, South Carolina on June 29, 1950 to Lieutenant Colonel John Thomas McElveen and Madeline Bonneau McElveen (née Brown).[7] Her father was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force and a P-51 pilot during World War II. Her mother was a school teacher. Her father joined the Air National Guard and was activated during the Korean War. He was one of the original seven U2 pilots who flew over the Soviet Union during the Cold War. When she was 18 months old, her family moved to Germany. They continued to move throughout her childhood to Washington, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, California, and Nebraska.[8] She is the older sister of John Thomas McElveen, Jr. and Tweed McElveen-Bogache.[9]

She attended Bellevue High School in Nebraska, where she graduated in 1968. In 1970 she won the title of Miss Nebraska USA and went on to compete in the Miss USA pageant.[10] She attended Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri where she started to study fashion design but later switched to business law and marketing. After graduating she moved to Charlotte, North Carolina and worked for Bank of America. She then worked for Community Publishing, selling subscriptions to Charlotte Magazine. In 1972 she moved to Greensboro, North Carolina to work for Republican congressman Walter E. Johnston, III and started Pace Magazine.[11]


McElveen-Hunter founded Pace Communications, Inc. in 1973 and serves as the current Chief Executive Officer and Owner. She currently also serves as the Chairwoman of the Board of the American Red Cross and as a member of the Board of Trustees at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. She has also served as a Trustee of the RAND Corporation and is a founder of the United Way Billion Dollar National Women's Leadership Initiative. In 2003 she initiated Stop Child Trafficking: End Modern-Day Slavery and Children of Karelia. She served as chairperson of the Alexis de Tocqueville Society and served on the United Way of America Board as a member of its National Leadership Council. She was also a member of the International Board of Directors of Habitat for Humanity.[12] She served as co-chairwoman of the annual national meeting of the Young Presidents Organization in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has also served on the University of North Carolina at Greensboro Advisory Board, the Greensboro Development Corporation, the Renaissance Campaign of the United Arts Council, and the board of First Union National Bank.[13] McElveen-Hunter has also served on the boards for iCivics, The Collectors Committee of the National Gallery of Art, the Washington National Opera, Blair House, Macedonian Ministry, Inc., National Portrait Gallery, Max Planck Florida Institute.

McElveen-Hunter was appointed as the U.S. Ambassador to Finland by President George W. Bush, a position she held from 2001 to 2003. As the United States Ambassador to Finland, McElveen-Hunter organized the Helsinki Women Business Leaders Summit, where female CEOs from the United States, Baltic region, and Russia created a business model to be replicated in other parts of the world. In 2004 she hosted a second Summit in Riga, Latvia and a third Summit in 2007 in Amman, Jordan for women from Iraq, Palestine, Syria, and other Middle Eastern countries.[14] Tarja Halonen, the President of Finland, awarded her with the honor of Commander Grand Cross of the Order of the Lion.[15]

In 2004, McElveen-Hunter was appointed the first female chairperson of the American Red Cross.[16] As chairperson, she has led the American Red Cross through the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and Hurricane Sandy.[17] She has also since served on the boards of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and the North Carolina Museum of Art. She also serves on the leadership council for ServiceNation. In 2013, McElveen-Hunter served as the Honorary Chairman of the 74th annual Wyndham Championship.[18] She is on the National Advisory Board for High Point University and Elon University School of Law and has been a guest lecturer at Wake Forest University School of Business. She is a Lifetime Member of the Association and Junior Leagues International, Inc., a Lifetime Member of Hadassah, and a current member of Chief Executives Organization. She has given many commencement addresses in her career, including the 1988 University of North Carolina at Greensboro address, 2008 Pepperdine University, Graziadio School of Business and Management, 2010 Coastal Carolina University, and 2012 University of North Carolina at Greensboro address.


  • Commander Grand Cross of the Order of the Lion of Finland
  • United Way’s 2004 National Alexis de Tocqueville Society Award[19]
  • Appeal of Conscience Public Service Award
  • Dr. Carl-Christian Rosenbröijer Award
  • National Foundation for Women Legislators' Woman Entrepreneur of the Year
  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce National Athena Award
  • Women Leaders Forum Trailblazer of the Year
  • Ellis Island Medal of Honor
  • Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from North Carolina State University
  • 2012 North Carolina Award for Public Service
  • Order of Saint Charles (Monaco)
  • Horatio Alger Award Recipient, Class of 2013
  • Points of Light Tribute Award
  • Member of the Carolina Entrepreneur Hall of Fame
  • North Carolina Award for Public Service
  • Courage Visionary Award from National Historically Black Colleges & Universities Alumni Association
  • Internationalism Award, American Women for International Understanding
  • North Carolina Society of New York Honoree
  • United Way Women’s Leadership Award
  • United Way National Women’s Leadership Council’s Inaugural Women in Philanthropy Award
  • John M. Templeton Biblical Values Award
  • Appeal of Conscience Public Service Award
  • Ellis Island Medal of Honor
  • Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from North Carolina State University
  • Dr. Carl-Christian Rosenbröijer Award
  • Woman Entrepreneur of the Year (National Foundation for Women Legislatures)
  • National Athena Award (United States Chamber of Commerce for business and civic contributions),
  • Outstanding Business Leader (Northwood University-Outstanding Business Leaders Association)
  • Trailblazer of the Year (Women Leaders Forum)
  • Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame Inductee

Personal life[edit]

In 1980, McElveen became the third wife of Bynum Merritt Hunter, an attorney. Together they have one son, Bynum Merritt Hunter, Jr. Their son graduated from Williams College in 2005 and from Harvard Business School in 2013. She and her husband own homes in Greensboro, Palm Beach, and Washington, DC. She and her family are members of First Presbyterian Church of Greensboro.[20]


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  3. ^ "Red Cross Leadership at Issue". The Washington Post. December 30, 2005. Retrieved January 9, 2011. 
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  5. ^ "Envoy says women's success can lead to peace". CNN. October 5, 2002. Retrieved January 9, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Aura of Invincibility Shrinks Gifts to Bush Rivals". The New York Times. August 1, 1999. Retrieved January 9, 2011. 
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