Climbing the Corporate Ladder to the Top

Karen Kaplan, President of Hill Holiday and Chairman of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, to speak at the Spring 2013 Graduation Ceremony


Karen Kaplan began working at Hill Holliday in 1982 as a receptionist; a “pause” before she headed to law school. Fast-forward 30 years and she is now the President of the company, which boasts over $1 billion in annual billings and creates advertising campaigns for some of the world’s top brands: Dunkin’ Donuts, Verizon Wireless, Chili’s, Major League Baseball, and Bank of America, to name a few.

Kaplan will speak at Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies graduation ceremony on Saturday, April 20, 2013 at 9am at Matthews Arena on Northeastern’s campus. She will speak to those graduating from the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs, as well as to their family and friends, whether they attend the ceremony on campus or watch it online.

“We are thrilled to have someone who is so accomplished and driven speak to our graduates on one of the most important days in their lives,” said John LaBrie, dean of the College of Professional Studies and vice president for professional education. “Ms. Kaplan’s professional career shows that with enough hard work, ambition, and perseverance, it’s possible to rise through the ranks and achieve your professional goals.”

Along with leading Hill Holliday, Kaplan was named Chairman of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce in May 2012, and is also a past President of the Massachusetts Women’s Forum, among many other appointments.

Working Her Way up the Ranks

“The year that I spent on the reception desk [at Hill Holliday] proved to be very useful, because it was the perfect place to study people and figure out what I wanted to do next,” Kaplan said in a interview.

Just after a year in that position, she began to work her way up the ranks, working on various pieces of business in the consumer, heath care, technology, retail, and financial service industries.  Kaplan notes that she did this in a very “deliberate” way because she started in an entry-level position at the company.

“I said, I’m going to work two hours a day longer and one of the weekend days. And I did it gladly, because I knew that after a year I’d be able to catch up to people who had a 10-year head start and surpass them,” she said in the interview.

A Hand in the Boston Business Economy

Kaplan is only the second woman to chair The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce in 103 years, according to a press release from the group. The Chamber represents 1,500 businesses from virtually every industry and profession in the area.

“Karen’s success at Hill Holliday, presence in the Greater Boston community, and vision for the future make her one of the region’s most respected and talented leaders,” said Paul Guzzi, president and CEO of the Chamber, in a news release.

As Chair, Kaplan works with leaders in business and government in the Boston area to help grow the economy and create a partnership between business and government, improving the overall business climate in the region.

Kaplan also serves on the Board of Governors of the Chief Executives’ Club of Boston, on the Board of Directors of Jobs for Massachusetts, National Association of Corporate Directors New England Chapter, the Massachusetts Conference for Women, and the Post Office Square Trust, and is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, an action-oriented community of the most effective CEOs, heads of state, Nobel Prize winners, and non-governmental leaders in the world.

Hill Holliday is among the top marketing agencies in the country, with more than 850 employees in Boston, New York, South Carolina, and Miami.  It was founded in 1968, and today brings unbeatable talent and expertise to every area of communications on behalf of industry leaders like Verizon Wireless, Bank of America, Liberty Mutual, Dunkin’ Donuts, (RED), Major League Baseball, John Hancock, Chili’s, CIGNA, and Novartis.  Hill Holliday is the only agency to win Adweek’s Media Plan of the Year four years in a row, and was named MEDIA magazine’s full-service Agency of the Year in 2011 and 2012.

For more information on the College of Professional Studies graduation ceremony on Saturday, April 20, 2013, please visit: