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 The Surdna Foundation, a private grant making foundation committed to fostering sustainable communities in the United States, announced the election of Jocelyn Downie, a prominent scholar, as the next Chair of its Board of Trustees.The foundation also announced the election of a new member, Tracy Palandjian,an innovator on impact investing. 

Professor Downie has been on the board of the 97-year old family foundation since May 2007 and will succeed Josephine R. (Josie) Lowman, who completed her six-year term as Chair and now becomes Secretary, Treasurer, and Chair of the Investment Committee. Both Jocelyn and Josie are from the family’s fifth generation and serve with eight other family members. 

Jocelyn Downie: Scholar, activist, leader.
Downie, a Professor in the Faculties of Law and Medicine at Canada’s Dalhousie University, is a leading authority in the intersecting areas of health law, policy, and ethics, and is one of Canada’s foremost experts on end-of-life law and policy. Her book Dying Justice, advocates for the legalization of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. A review of her book in the New England Journal of Medicine praises the author for setting out “a broad ethical framework that would apply in any culture that prizes individual autonomy.” Professor Downie has helped to set the standards for governance of research involving humans and has led the movement to build a thriving community of health law scholars across Canada. 

Professor Downie has received numerous awards and honors.  She is a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences and held a Canada Research Chair, one of Canada’s most prestigious university research fellowships.  She clerked for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and was Director of the Dalhousie Health Law Institute for ten years. Professor Downie is the author of several books and has been published extensively in leading journals including Science, Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics, Health Law Journal, Journal of Clinical Ethics, Journal of Medical Ethics, and Bioethics.

“Jocelyn will become chair of the board at a very exciting time for Surdna,” said Phillip Henderson, President of the Surdna Foundation. “In collaboration with the board, we recently refined our programs and are making considerable progress toward our mission of fostering just and sustainable communities in the United States. Internally, the foundation has emphasized the importance and strategic value of collaborating across our three core programs—Thriving Cultures, Strong Local Economies, and Sustainable Environments—and learning as we go.”

“As we near our centennial in 2017,” said Henderson, “we look to Jocelyn with her distinctive passion, inquisitiveness, and confidence to guide—and challenge—the foundation. And, to continue to urge us to be bold in our grantmaking, to take risks, and learn from successes and failures.”

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Tracy Palandjian: Social entrepreneur, passionate visionary.
Tracy Palandjian,Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Social Finance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to mobilizing investment capital to drive social progress, will be one of three non-family members on the 13-person board. She replaces Thomas Castro, also a non-family member, who has completed two three-year terms of board duty and is stepping down. Ms. Palandjian will begin her board service in May 2014.

Tracy Palandjianhas been working to forge innovative ways to increase social impact by re-imagining the role of the capital markets in enabling social progress. Prior to co-founding Social Finance in 2011, Palandjian was a Managing Director for 11 years at The Parthenon Group where she established and led the Nonprofit Practice and partnered with foundations and NGOs to accomplish their missions. She also worked at Wellington Management Company and McKinsey & Company. Palandjian currently serves as Co-Chair of the U.S. National Advisory Board to the G8 Social Impact Investing Taskforce.

“Tracy will bring to the board a deep commitment to the nonprofit sector and valuable experience as a social entrepreneur,” said Jocelyn Downie, Chair of the Surdna Foundation Board of Trustees. “Tracy’s well-deserved national reputation has been established through her commitment to a belief that all individuals deserve an opportunity to thrive, and that social impact financing can play a catalytic role in creating these opportunities.”

Downie added: “Tracy is dedicated to tackling complex social challenges such as poverty and unemployment and is guided by the very values of social justice that lie at the heart of Surdna’s mission.”

A family foundation’s evolution: adds staff; non-family members to board.
In November 2004, nearly 87 years after its founding, in an effort to introduce fresh ideas around the board table, the Andrus family appointed the first non-family trustees. During the search for the initial two—and all subsequent searches for outside board members—the focus was on inviting candidates who would introduce different insights and expertise, and add greater diversity. The family wanted people who wouldn’t hesitate to draw out and challenge assumptions and who would advocate for alternative approaches.

The decision on non-family members—and the election Tracy Palandjian—continues a process of the professionalization of foundation activities Surdna began 25 years ago when the family responded to some observers who believed that the foundation was capable of so much more. So, with the hiring of Ed Skloot in 1989 as the foundation’s president and first full-time employee, Surdna’s evolution began in earnest. Skloot built the organization’s first programs and attracted top talent. 

Surdna Foundation family trustees are elected by the full board and can serve up to four three-year terms. Non-family trustees can serve up to two three-year terms. Trustees develop and refine the foundation’s mission, and set strategy related to grantmaking, investments, governance and professional standards, and they have fiduciary responsibility for independent audits. The foundation’s trustees come from North America and have extensive experience in the fields of local government, academic medicine, philanthropic investment, marketing, secondary and higher education, finance, and the nonprofit sector.


About The Surdna Foundation

The Surdna Foundation seeks to foster sustainable communities in the United States—communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures. Learn more at On Twitter @Surdna_Fndn

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Fostering sustainable communities in the United States — communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures.