Diversity, thinking outside the box offer templates for guiding CEO transitions at big foundations

By Amy Lieberman 06 March 2017

A man in a suit. Photo by: energepic.com

Raj Shah, former USAID administrator, will start his next high-profile gig as the president of the Rockefeller Foundation in March, taking the reins from Judith Rodin. She has led Rockefeller, one the world’s largest philanthropic organizations, since 2005.

The announcement last month that Shah, 43, will lead the foundation, is the latest sign of notable leadership turnover at foundations operating in the international development arena.

Julia Stasch was selected as MacArthur Foundation’s president and CEO in March 2015, after serving as its interim president for several months, following the exit of Robert Gallucci. Darren Walker took over for Luis A. Ubiñas as CEO of the Ford Foundation in 2013. And La June Montgomery Tabron became W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s CEO and president in 2014.

In a relatively short period of time, there have been some high-level changes at important philanthropy organizations, leading to questions of both why this is occurring, and what’s involved today with managing a CEO or president transition at a large foundation. There isn’t one simple answer, but timing and diversity are driving factors, experts say.

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About the author

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Amy Liebermanamylieberman

Amy Lieberman is a reporter for Devex, based out of New York, where she covers global development around the city and out of the United Nations. She has previously worked as a freelancer, reporting on the environment, social justice issues, immigration and development. Her coverage has appeared in The Guardian, The Atlantic, Slate and The Los Angeles Times, among other outlets. She received her M.A. in politics and government from Columbia Journalism School in 2014.


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