News: Featured Stories

April 3, 2015

Retired healthcare CEO to address business school at Commencement


  • Dartmouth
Former UnitedHealthcare Specialty Benefits CEO and UMass Dartmouth Alumna to receive Honorary Degree and offer Keynote Address at May 15 Commencement ceremony.

Former UnitedHealthcare Specialty Benefits CEO and UMass Dartmouth Alumna Diane Desmarais Souza '79 will receive an honorary degree and deliver the keynote address at UMass Dartmouth's Charlton College of Business May 15 Commencement ceremony.

"We are privileged to have one of our most distinguished alumni return to UMass Dartmouth to address our future business leaders in the Class of 2015," UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Divina Grossman said. "Diane Souza has been a change agent whose extensive success in one of the nation's fastest changing industries, combined with active engagement in community causes, offers our graduates valuable insights as they embark on their professional lives."

As CEO of UnitedHealthcare Specialty Benefits, Ms. Souza led an organization that serves more than 75,000 employers and 21 million members with revenues of $2 billion. The company portfolio includes dental, vision, life, disability, critical illness and accident products, services and solutions. Her achievements included implementing a turnaround strategy that grew revenues by $100 million in three years despite economic and business challenges. She improved the bottom line profitability by 300 percent in that same timeframe driven by pricing discipline, addition of key talent and a solid management of affordability initiatives.  She served as a member of the inaugural UnitedHealth Group Cultural Leadership Team, comprised of select UnitedHealth Group senior leaders responsible for guiding and implementing the company's culture map including its vision, values and behaviors.

Ms. Souza's impressive career path spans positions from dental hygienist to community advocate to board member to CEO. She held leadership positions at Deloitte Haskins & Sells in Louisiana and Rhode Island, as well as at Price Waterhouse in Rhode Island and Connecticut. In 1994, she began a 12- year career at Aetna where she rose to CFO of Aetna's Guaranteed Products business with more than $36 billion of assets under management, and led federal and state taxes, national customer operations, and major strategic systems and process transformation, while managing teams of up to 3,200 employees.

A certified public accountant, Ms. Souza graduated from UMass Dartmouth in 1979 with a degree in accounting. She also holds a degree in Dental Hygiene from the Forsyth School for Dental Hygienists at Northeastern University.

Ms. Souza volunteers her time and expertise to strengthen the health and wellness of our communities at such organizations as The UnitedHealthcare Children's Foundation (Northeast Region), Connecticut Community Health Charities, American Diabetes Association, Aurora Foundation, and Leadership Rhode Island.  She is also a member of the UMass Dartmouth Chancellor's Advisory Council.

The University recently announced that National Book Award winner Carlos Eire will address the UMass Dartmouth College of Arts & Sciences Class of 2015. National legal analyst and best-selling author Rikki Klieman will address the UMass Law Class of 2015 at the May 18 Commencement.

UMass Dartmouth distinguishes itself as a vibrant, public research university dedicated to engaged learning and innovative research resulting in personal and lifelong student success. The University serves as an intellectual catalyst for economic, social, and cultural transformation on a global, national, and regional scale.