Stearns is the second of two children of working-class parents in Syracuse, New York. He worked his way through Cornell University, earning a bachelor’s degree in neurobiology in 1973. After receiving a master’s degree in business administration from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Stearns began a career in marketing for several Fortune 500 companies, starting with the Gillette Company.
From 1977 to 1985, Stearns held various roles with Parker Brothers Games, culminating in his appointment as president in 1984. He joined Lenox, the American gift and tableware company, in 1987 as division president. He was named president and CEO of Lenox Inc., in 1995, overseeing six manufacturing facilities, 4,000 employees, and $500 million in annual sales.
Since joining World Vision U.S. in 1998, Stearns also has participated in the larger World Vision partnership, leading efforts to refine the organization’s business practices and advocating for global impact standards to evaluate program effectiveness.
Stearns has traveled to more than 40 of the nearly 100 countries where World Vision works. He and his wife, Reneé, have been World Vision donors since 1984. A lawyer by training, Mrs. Stearns also travels and speaks on behalf of World Vision. The couple has five children and three grandchildren.