by Phillip Henderson | President, Surdna Foundation

jocelyn downie 1

Dear Friends,

I'm writing to share some wonderful news. Our board has elected Jocelyn Downie, a fifth generation member of the John E. Andrus family and a prominent scholar, as its next chair. Surdna's board also elected Tracy Palandjian, an innovator in impact investing, as its newest member. See our press release for more detail.

Jocelyn has been on the board 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 takes the chair at an exciting time for us. She's a well-known ethicist whose passion for social justice has helped refine that part of our mission. And, she captures the board's and staff's energy and enthusiasm for our recently revised programs. As we near our centennial in 2017, we are looking forward to having Jocelyn's inquisitiveness, and confidence to guide--and challenge--the foundation.

tracy palandjian

Tracy Palandjian, our newest board member, has experience tackling complex social challenges, and will be especially helpful as we continue to think through how best to create access to quality jobs and upward economic mobility. The expertise she brings as an impact investor is well timed--our board has just approved, and we will soon close, our first two Program Related Investments.

Tracy replaces Thomas Castro who has completed two three-year terms of board duty. The board position that she takes over in May 2014 is one of three non-family seats on Surdna's 13-member board.

It's helpful to add a bit of history to these board transitions to better understand Surdna's continued evolution.

Back 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. While they sought new faces, the family was careful to select candidates who would continue the foundation's collegial, ideas-driven approach--a style of operating in which no board member hesitates to draw out and challenge a colleague's assumptions, or shies away from advocating alternative approaches.

Surdna's transformation shifted into high gear 25 years ago when the family responded to observers who believed that the foundation was capable of so much more. So, with the hiring of my predecessor Ed Skloot in 1989 as Surdna's first full-time employee, the foundation created its first programs and began to attract top talent.

With the addition of staff, the board was quite deliberate about cultivating a relationship with them that centered on collegiality and dialogue--it's a part of our culture we believe is pretty unique. We are encouraged to take risks by a board that places a high value on the resulting lessons--be they successes or failures. It's quite liberating when a board is engaged and educated, and is a real partner in the grantmaking. And, we think, it adds far greater accountability.

We've continued our very deliberate evolution so that we can play even smarter and push even harder for social justice. That's what energizes us. It's also what compels the board to select inquisitive purposeful leaders like Jocelyn, and identify outside voices with new competencies like Tracy.


Phil Henderson 

Media Contact

Office of Communications


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