Introducing Cyndi Z
by Martha King
With the exception of two years when she left to serve as an administrator for a clinical trial, Cynthia Zagieboylo has been steadfastly at work furthering the Society’s mission for
more than 25 years. Most of
this work took place behind
the scenes, as Cyndi organized
coalitions, created teams, shaped
input into big ideas, and then
made sure that structures were
created to support them and that
measurements were applied to
track outcomes against initial
In all this, Cyndi Z as she’s
almost always called—but only
after, she’ll warn, you’ve learned
to say “Zag ee boy low”—made
sure that volunteers, especially
people with MS, were in the
spotlight. This changes in October, when Cyndi
Z becomes president and CEO of the National
MS Society—a national spokesperson for our
“Cyndi knows the Society inside and out.
Her strategic thinking and results-driven track
record speak to her strength as a leader,” said Tom
Kuhn, national board chair and co-leader, with
Eli Rubinstein, of the search committee convened
when Joyce Nelson announced her decision to step
The only girl in a family of four kids, with parents who encouraged responsibility from the
get go, Cyndi grew up in a household teeming
with dogs, cats, ducks and whatever else came
home. In addition, the kids were responsible for
seven cows, three pigs, chickens, and a milking
goat. Then there were sports. Back in the day,
organized sports for girls were rare, so Cyndi’s
mother gamely sewed her a cheerleading outfit.
That lasted just one season.
The following spring her mom
organized a town softball league
for girls, and cautioned her
daughter, “Never get a haircut
that doesn’t look good with a
baseball cap.” The importance
of teamwork has been Cyndi’s
touchstone ever since.
With a degree in rehabilita-
tion counseling, Cyndi began
as director of services for people
with MS and their families at
what was then the Massachu-
setts Chapter. She was soon
working across regions (long
before the Society established
regions) to shift a somewhat paternalistic organi-
zational approach to one structured to listen to
and collaborate with the people who are directly
affected by MS.
Somehow in the middle of a daunting schedule of travel and meetings, Cyndi has managed a
fulfilling home life with two now-teenage sons and
a husband with a profession of his own.
Eli Rubinstein, national board member and
co-chair of the search committee summed it up:
“Cyndi is a visionary and a strong team leader.
I know of no one better prepared to lead us
Martha King was, until September 30, 2011, editor of
Momentum. This profile is one of her final contributions
to the magazine.