MacArthur President Julia Stasch to Step Down Next Year

September 25, 2018 Press Releases
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Julia M. Stasch, who has served as President of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation since July 2014, announced today that she will step down in 2019.

“During this exceptional time, when hope and optimism persist, even as the challenges facing our city, our nation, and the world can seem so daunting and the divisions so deep, it is an honor to lead an institution committed to making the world a better and more just place for all,” said Stasch. “Philanthropy is well-positioned to act boldly, to take risks, to invest in new ideas, and to bridge differences to effect real and lasting change. I am so proud to work with the terrific MacArthur Board; dedicated, passionate, and talented staff; partners and colleagues of all kinds; and the incredible organizations we support, whose critical work spans from North Lawndale to Lagos, helping people, places, and the planet.”

As President, Stasch is focusing the Foundation on fewer programs to free up resources and enable deeper impact. She launched “Big Bets,” significant and urgent investments to achieve transformative change in areas of profound concern. The small number of “Big Bets” include:

  • $127 million to date to address over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails through the Safety and Justice Challenge; and
  • $236 million to date to help mitigate climate change and promote climate solutions by supporting global leadership to reduce emissions and move toward a less carbon-intensive economy.  

She also led the creation of 100&Change, a global competition for a single $100 million grant to enable real and measurable progress in solving a critical problem of our time. Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee received the inaugural $100 million award to educate young children displaced by conflict and persecution in the Middle East. A second round of the competition will launch in 2019.

Stasch encouraged staff to listen carefully and build more relationships with Chicago’s diverse communities, leaders, and voices. The resulting Chicago Commitment supports local nonprofits and community-driven efforts to address critical challenges, advance diverse leaders, cultivate creative expression, and bring about positive social change.

She standardized and made even more rigorous the Foundation’s process for developing and evaluating grantmaking strategies, and she changed the way the Foundation staffs its programs, instituting a collaborative, team-based structure that brings diverse expertise and needed capacities to each field of MacArthur’s work.

As part of living the Foundation’s mission of a more just, verdant, and peaceful world, Stasch charged MacArthur staff to double down on its commitment to justice in grantmaking and operations. Through the “just imperative,” she prioritized greater diversity at every level of MacArthur staff; through a broader range of organizations providing goods and services to the Foundation; by elevating voices not typically heard in policy and the public narrative; and by ensuring that the Foundation’s grantmaking strategies consider and support a broad diversity of organizations and help to address historic and structural inequities.

“Julia has provided exemplary leadership, bringing rigor, urgency, boldness, and a willingness to take risks to MacArthur’s programs and operations,” said Dan Huttenlocher, MacArthur Board Chairman and founding Dean and Vice Provost of Cornell Tech. “Her vision helped define ‘big bet’ philanthropy and reinforce in powerful ways the Foundation’s core commitment to justice. We applaud her contributions and look forward to building on the bold achievements of her tenure as we continue to work with MacArthur’s outstanding staff and partners of all kinds to help bring about real and lasting change.”  

Huttenlocher said the Foundation's Board will immediately launch a broad search for MacArthur’s next President.

Stasch served as Vice President for MacArthur’s U.S. Programs for 13 years before becoming President. Before joining MacArthur, she was Chief of Staff to Mayor Richard M. Daley, Housing Commissioner for the City of Chicago, Deputy Administrator of the 20,000-person General Services Administration during the Clinton Administration, and President of Shorebank Chicago Companies, which included Shorebank, the nation’s first community development bank. Earlier, as President and Chief Operating Officer of real estate development company Stein & Company, she was nationally known for efforts to open up opportunities in the construction industry to women and minorities in the workforce and for woman- and minority-owned businesses.