Posted on December 30, 2008
2008: People in the News
PND - 2008: Year in Review - People in the News
In a remarkably eventful year, the biggest newsmaker of all was Barack Obama, the 47-year-old junior senator from Illinois who became the first African American elected President of the United States. As historic as Obama's campaign and election to the presidency was, however, 2008 will also be remembered for other notable firsts: The first woman to contend for a major-party presidential nomination (Hillary Rodham Clinton); the first woman to be selected as the vice-presidential nominee of the Republican Party (Sarah Palin); and the oldest person ever to secure a major-party presidential nomination (John McCain).
The year in philanthropy was also eventful, with leadership changes at some of the nation's largest foundations and nonprofit institutions. In February, Patty Stonesifer announced that she would step down as CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a position she had held since 1997; Stonesifer subsequently was named to chair the governing body of the Washington, D.C.-based Smithsonian Institution — a position created last year as part of a sweeping reform effort designed to restore public trust in and improve oversight at that troubled organization. Her replacement at the Gates Foundation, Jeff Raikes, a former president of Microsoft's business software division, assumed his duties in September and told the Associated Press that his two biggest challenges would be getting up to speed as quickly as possible and managing the foundation's rapid growth. In June, Raikes' former boss at Microsoft, company co-founder Bill Gates, formally ceded his duties at the software giant to focus full-time on his philanthropic activities.
There were changes and announcements at other foundations as well. Early in the year, the New York City-based Doris Duke Charitable Foundation announced that its founding president, Joan E. Spero, would step down in December after leading the foundation and its three operating foundations for almost twelve years, while in June the Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced that Jonathan Fanton would step down after two five-year terms as president of the foundation in September 2009.
Two major cultural institutions and the American Red Cross also faced executive transitions in 2008 — a sign, perhaps, that the exodus of baby boomers out of the nonprofit sector is accelerating. In January, Philippe de Montebello, the longtime director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, announced his retirement, effective December 31. Thomas P. Campbell, de Montebello's successor, has worked in the Met's department of European sculpture and decorative arts for more than thirteen years, rising steadily through the ranks as assistant curator, associate curator, and curator. In February, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation director Thomas Krens announced he was stepping down after twenty years in that position. His successor, Richard Armstrong, most recently was director of the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh and held several curatorial posts at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City as well. And in June the American Red Cross opened a new chapter when it welcomed former AT&T and Fidelity Investments executive Gail J. McGovern as its new president and CEO.
On the philanthropic infrastructure front, Eugene Tempel, longtime executive director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, was named to head the Indiana University Foundation, effective September 1, while the New York City-based Foundation Center (parent organization of Philanthropy News Digest) said goodbye to longtime president Sara Engelhardt at the end of September and welcomed Bradford K. Smith, head of the Oak Foundation in Geneva, Switzerland, and a former director of the Peace and Social Justice Program at the Ford Foundation, in October.
In August, all eyes turned to China, which acquitted itself admirably as host of the 2008 Summer Olympics. But the Aquatic Center in Beijing wasn't the only venue where folks were making a splash. Just before the games got under way, Australian iron-ore magnate Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest surprised his countrymen by announcing that he planned to leave the bulk of his $8 billion fortune to charity. In making the announcement, Forrest was quoted as saying that he didn't aspire to great wealth and he didn't "intend to leave this earth as a rich man." Meanwhile, in England, businessman and Conservative Party deputy chair Lord Michael Ashcroft announced plans to establish a foundation that will receive 80 percent of his estimated £1.1 billion ($1.8 billion) fortune when he dies, making him one of the most prolific philanthropists in British history. Explaining his decision, Ashcroft said his wealth sometimes "sits uneasily" and that he was uncomfortable with the idea of his children inheriting his entire fortune. "I don't think anybody should just be handed something on a platter," he said. "My family will be trustees so that they can enjoy spending money on worthy causes in my name."
The year also was notable for the gentle philanthropic souls who left us. In May, Claude Rosenberg, who was best known as the author of Wealthy and Wise: How You and America Can Get the Most Out of Your Giving and as the founder of the New Tithing Group, died at the age of 80. In June, Stewart R. Mott, the son of Charles Stewart Mott and a philanthropist who supported progressive and sometimes offbeat causes, passed away at the age of 70. And in July, Sir John M. Templeton, who amassed a fortune on Wall Street over a seventy-year career and subsequently donated hundreds of millions of dollars to promote research at the intersection of science and faith, died, after a long life well lived, at the age of 95.
Last but not least, the world was saddened in September to learn of the death of actor Paul Newman at the age of 83. Admired and respected for his roles in movies such as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), The Hustler (1961), Hud (1963), Cool Hand Luke (1967), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), The Sting (1971), The Verdict (1982), and The Color of Money (1986), Newman forged a brilliant second career as a philanthropist and the co-founder of Newman's Own, a multimillion-dollar food company whose profits are dedicated to charity. He will be missed.
British Billionaire to Leave Bulk of Fortune to Charity (10/26/08)
Paul Newman Planned for Charitable Legacy After Death (9/30/08)
Stonesifer to Chair Smithsonian (9/23/08)
Metropolitan Museum Selects New Director (9/11/08)
Jeff Raikes Takes Over as New Gates Foundation CEO (9/03/08)
Australia's Wealthiest Man Pledges Fortune to Charity (8/10/08)
Philanthropist Sir John M. Templeton Dies (7/09/08)
Eugene Tempel to Head Indiana University Foundation (7/03/08)
MacArthur Foundation President Jonathan Fanton to Retire in 2009 (6/26/08)
Philanthropist Stewart R. Mott Dies (6/17/08)
Bradford K. Smith Named President of the Foundation Center (5/22/08)
Gates Foundation Names Former Microsoft Head as New CEO (5/13/08)
Claude Rosenberg, Founder of New Tithing Group, Dies (5/12/08)
Red Cross Announces New President and CEO (4/09/08)
Guggenheim Foundation Director to Step Down (2/29/08)
Patty Stonesifer to Step Down as CEO of Gates Foundation (2/08/08)
Joan Spero to Step Down as President of Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (2/07/08)