Special Issue 2013

 



Saying goodbye to the Trust

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Life has given me the opportunity to live out my personal passion through my vocation for forty years and to work with extraordinary people all along the way.

In October of 1998, I moved from Washington, D.C., to begin this dream position. Six months earlier, after 13 years with the Fannie Mae Foundation, I had decided that I wanted to lead a more community-oriented foundation, where I could make a more personal contribution to its form and direction. Fannie Mae's chairman said he understood and offered to support me in my search for just the right opportunity.

Within a month, in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, I read the CEO job description for the newly formed Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust and said to myself, "This has my name on it!" After all, I had Midwestern roots and also loved the times I had visited Phoenix and Arizona for business and pleasure. It sounded perfect!

Fortunately, Founding Trust Chairman, Frank Russell, thought I was a good fit and took a chance on me. I told Frank that I intended to retire from this position and that I thought 65 was a good target. And, in a few months, I will be there.

Extraordinary teamwork and collegiality across two cities and states are what have made these 15 years pass so quickly. And, I credit Frank Russell's wisdom in selecting his wife Nancy, and Carol Schilling, Nina's niece, to be his fellow founding Trustees. Both had special relationships with Mrs. Pulliam and had been members of the Pulliam newspaper family as well. Frank also assembled a core administrative and financial staff who loyally followed him from his chairmanship of Central Newspapers to help set up the Trust's operations.

Upon my arrival and over the first 18 months, we established the Phoenix office, created and implemented the plan for investing the Trust's endowment, hired the grants program staff, crafted the Trust's mission and funding priorities and began making grants based on Mrs. Pulliam's charitable interests and values. Those priorities remain relevant and alive today, and the majority of that original staff is still with the Trust.

My successor will be welcomed by an incredible community of nonprofit leaders and volunteers who make life so vital, humane and meaningful in Indianapolis and Indiana. Yes, there are challenges and much more to do to improve the human condition, broaden opportunities for all, live more harmoniously with animals and nature and enrich community life. As time marches on, there always will be more problems to solve and exciting breakthrough discoveries to celebrate, but every day for the past 15 years, the efforts or the Trust's grantees have inspired and motivated me.

Many of you have either read or heard me say that a foundation is no better than its grantees. In other words, the Trust's reputation depends upon the good work and accomplishments of its grantees.

Now, I am saying good bye. I am a great believer in organizational life cycles. My contribution has been to create, build and sustain. It is now time for a new leader with other talents and gifts to come aboard and help chart and lead the course for the next 10-15 years or longer with the Trustees and staff.

This Connections message is my last public opportunity as the Trust's president to acknowledge the generosity of Nina Mason Pulliam, who upon her death brought the Trust to life for 50 years. As Frank Russell used to say at our traditional grantee receptions, "She is the good lady who has brought us together here today." Certainly, it is her generous spirit that lives on through the Trust's grantmaking and because of the contributions of so many.

In closing, I especially thank the Trust staff for their integrity, dedication and loyalty. My successor will inherit a great team of professional colleagues and friends who wake up every morning looking for new ways to serve our communities.

 

Send your congratulations and good wishes to Harriet on the Trust's online guest book.