- In 12-Year Tenure, Rodin Overhauled The Rockefeller Foundation, Ushering in a New Era of Strategic Philanthropy That Leveraged Cross-Sector Partnerships
- Rodin Served as First Female President of The Rockefeller Foundation and of an Ivy League Institution at University of Pennsylvania
New York, NY—After nearly 12 years at the helm, Judith Rodin, the first female president of The Rockefeller Foundation, announced her decision to depart the institution once a new president is identified and takes office. Rodin’s leadership ushered The Rockefeller Foundation into a new era of strategic philanthropy that emphasized partnerships with business, government, and the philanthropic community to address and solve for the complex challenges of the 21st century. In her planned announcement to the board, Rodin and longtime colleague and Board Chair, Dick Parsons, committed to a seamless transition. Until a new president takes office, Rodin will continue to actively lead the Foundation as she has for the past 12 years.
As president, Rodin recognized that the Foundation’s funding alone was unable to spur the kind of systemic change necessary to solve the key challenges facing the world. Responding to that dynamic, Rodin led the Foundation in a sweeping transformation that modernized all operational and programmatic aspects of The Rockefeller Foundation. Rodin looked for new spaces where there was momentum for innovation, identified places where Rockefeller could use its influence to leverage additional financing and engage private and public sector partners to ensure impact continues after Rockefeller grantmaking ends. Building on the Foundation’s history of creating and developing the field of public health and the Green Revolution, under this new form of strategic philanthropy, Rodin championed two whole new fields that are now pervasive: resilience and impact investing.
“The Rockefeller Foundation has benefitted enormously from Judy Rodin’s tenure as our President and CEO.”
“The Rockefeller Foundation has benefitted enormously from Judy Rodin’s tenure as our President and CEO. Over the last 12 years, she has lead the Foundation to embrace a new and cutting-edge approach to grantmaking and innovation, and she has positioned us as a global leader in the urgent dialogue regarding how to make ours a better, more just, and more sustainable world. As both a longtime friend and a colleague her presence will be missed, though her vision will continue to guide us,” said Dick Parsons, board chair of The Rockefeller Foundation.
“It has been thrilling to guide The Rockefeller Foundation’s evolution to face the complex challenges of the 21st century and develop innovative solutions. We worked to transform this organization into one that is fit to deliver rapid and scalable impact for the multitude of changes around the world, ” said Rodin. “Through this evolution, I have witnessed transformative impact on the lives of our beneficiaries; I have seen resilience progress from concept to global practice with 100 cities on six continents that are now better prepared to face global challenges and climate change; and the creation and growth of impact investing into a $60 billion industry embraced by major investors. I have also had the joy of watching the first group of 20,000 inner-city students, bursting with excitement and a newfound love of American history meet and work with the cast of HAMILTON, thanks to our partnership with the producers and cast of the transcendent musical. If these were the only successes I witnessed as president I would be humbled. As is always the case in philanthropy, our work is never done. I look forward to seeing the Foundation continue to grow, transform and affect change worldwide and am committed to working as hard as ever until the day a new president takes over this amazing organization.”
David Rockefeller, Jr., former Board Chair and great-grandson of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. said, “I am so grateful to Judith for her leadership of The Rockefeller Foundation over 12 years. With Judith at the helm, The Rockefeller Foundation has charted a clear course through a rapidly changing world. She has truly been a transformative president who responded nimbly to global disruption and dynamism with a clear focus on fostering resilience among people, organizations and communities and building more inclusive economies. She achieved those goals by first strengthening the Foundation’s infrastructure, then reinventing the rules of philanthropic partnership, embracing strategic grantmaking and innovation, and deploying the power of The Rockefeller Foundation name and legacy. It was an enormous honor for me to be Chair of the Board as the Foundation marked its centennial in 2013. I was able to work with Judith as we celebrated the Foundation’s history of innovation and launched the Foundation’s second century. With Judith’s inspired leadership our future is bright.”
The Foundation’s resilience focus was largely influenced by Rodin’s work to revitalize West Philadelphia while leading the University of Pennsylvania. In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and watching cities worldwide struggle with the combined impacts of urbanization, globalization, and climate change, Rodin made it her mission to help cities build long-term resilience. In doing so, she ensured resilience was understood as a compendium of solutions that foster social cohesion, economic stability, and physical and environmental integrity.
Under her presidency, the Foundation invested more than half a billion dollars and leveraged billions more in resilience programs including: establishing 100 Resilient Cities, the creation and growth of the chief resilience officers around the globe, the Global Resilience Partnership, collaboration with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to support the National Disaster Resilience Competition and the Rebuild by Design competition, along with a decade of support for the City of New Orleans to help it become a model of resilience after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The Foundation’s resilience investments have leveraged billions of dollars from the public and private sectors, including commitments from an initial group of 10 cities in the 100 Resilient Cities network to direct $5.2 billion of their own budgets to address resilience challenges; billions from multinational organizations like the International Finance Corporation who committed $19 billion to resilience programs; and partnerships with the private sector and non-governmental organizations giving communities access to hundreds of millions of dollars in innovative resilience services.
Rodin’s efforts to incentivize private sector engagement in global problem-solving helped catalyze the growth of impact investing around the world. As part of an effort to significantly increase the amount of private sector funding available for social impact through investments that yield a financial and social return, the Foundation invested $50 million to support building the field of impact investing. The term “impact investing” was coined at an international conference the Foundation hosted at its Bellagio Conference Center in 2006. Four years later, despite the 2008-2009 worldwide financial meltdown, $6 billion of new investment capital had gone into impact investments. Three-quarters of that growth has been tied directly to Rockefeller’s efforts, leveraging the Foundation’s investment one hundred to one. The sector is now estimated at $60 billion. The Foundation has continued to build on its impact investing initiative through leading the development of the field of innovative finance. Rockefeller’s Zero Gap initiative sources and seed funds new and creative ways of mobilizing private capital to close the gap between development funding and global need.
One of the most high-profile examples of the nimble and strategic approach Rodin brought to philanthropy was the partnership she developed with HAMILTON, The Musical. Under Rodin’s leadership, The Foundation leveraged a $1.5 million investment to provide 20,000 inner-city kids with access to see the musical and incorporate Alexander Hamilton and the Founding Fathers into their 11th-grade history curriculum, through an arts education program. The success of the New York program has inspired similar efforts in Chicago and other cities where HAMILTON will be performed.
Rodin is the longest serving president of The Rockefeller Foundation in the last 40 years and is its first female president. Prior to her tenure at the Foundation, she served as the first female president of an Ivy League university at the University of Pennsylvania after having served as provost of Yale University.
Rodin will remain as president of the Foundation until a successor is identified and a smooth and seamless transition can take place. The search for a new president will begin late this summer.