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Thomas  Grilk

Thomas Grilk

Former Executive Director and then the President & Chief Executive Officer of the Boston Athletic Association | Boston Marathon (the B.A.A.)


Tom Grilk served as Executive Director and then the President & Chief Executive Officer of the Boston Athletic Association | Boston Marathon (the B.A.A.) during the deadly bombing attacks at the Boston Marathon finish line in 2013. Now, ten years on from that tragic day, Grilk is providing his unique perspective about leadership under fire, preparedness and decision making during the most stressful conditions imaginable. Grilk oversaw the world’s premier running event for more than a decade from January 2011 to April 2022. Each year, Grilk oversaw the preparation of 9,500 volunteers to serve 31,500 runners, including the world’s best marathoners, in front of a crowd that routinely swelled over 500,000 spectators. Each year brought major challenges, but on Monday, April 15, 2013 at 2:49 PM, Tom Grilk was faced with the most terrifying reality possible after two bombs exploded at the Finish Line, killing three people and injuring 260 more. As Executive Director of the B.A.A., Grilk had to mobilize and lead the B.A.A. through those tense hours and the chaotic aftermath when the eyes of the world focused on Boston. Read More >

Few people have led during traumatic events like the Boston Marathon Bombings. Tom Grilk is one of those few. Due in part to Grilk’s leadership in exercising responsibility for the training of his staff and their work with countless volunteers and public agencies, hundreds of bombing victims were given expert care and the resources they needed to stay alive. Grilk’s leadership and management helped to provide the essential coordination that enabled first responders to perform heroic, extraordinary feats that saved countless lives and gave meaning to the term: Boston Strong. An important learning of the period was that there can be heroism in preparedness.

At the same time, the principles and tactics that served the B.A.A. and Boston so well amidst those harrowing challenges apply well beyond matters of profound crisis. They are just as applicable in situations that arise in daily life to leaders of individuals and groups faced with less dramatic but nonetheless serious decisions that arise in leadership environments of all types.

Born in nearby Wakefield, Massachusetts, Tom currently resides in Lynnfield, Massachusetts, with his wife, Nancy Fredrick. He was for many years a corporate and business lawyer, both with the Boston law firm Hale and Dorr and serving as counsel and general counsel to Boston area technology companies. From 1984 to 1987, he and his wife lived in Tokyo, Japan. He is a graduate of Cornell University and received his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Michigan Law School. In 2018 he was recognized by Boston Magazine as one of 100 Most Influential People in Boston.

Tom Grilk is a broadly experienced public speaker, domestically and internationally, often addressing matters involving leadership under stress and the engagement of multiple groups of employees, contractors, public officials and the public at large in being prepared for and responding to matters as challenging and calamitous as the marathon bombing in Boston.

In the year leading up to the pandemic he hosted a podcast focused on the Boston Marathon, interviewing champions and others who have played and still play a part in the race’s history and operation. It is entitled “The Boston Marathon Podcast”.

In addition, prior to his time with the B.A.A. Tom had a history of public speaking going back to the 1980s, both at legal conferences and in providing motivational and performance recognition talks to groups of employees at tech companies for whom he served as counsel. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

Life Lasting Impact

Crisis Reveals Character

Thomas Grilk Former BAA CEO Reflects on Boston Marathon Bombing

President & Chief Executive Officer of the Boston Athletic Association

The Boston Marathon: What is Special About It? | Tom Grilk | TEDxBoston

Why Was Boston Strong

Winning the Race

2013 Boston Marathon Tribute: Tom Grilk - Universal Sports

Speech Topics

Leadership in the Face of Challenge, Whether a Major Crisis or the Continuing Pursuit of Organizational Objectives

The Value & Impact of Preparedness & Training

Creating an Environment of Trust & Empowerment to Enable Others to Succeed Leadership

Engagement with Important Organizations & Individuals that One Does Not Directly Control: The Importance of Collaboration