Kimberly A.C. Wilson
MICHELLE J. DEPASS NAMED MEYER MEMORIAL TRUST’S NEW PRESIDENT AND
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
DePass, a former appointee to the Environmental Protection Agency, will succeed Doug Stamm
after his 16-year tenure
PORTLAND, OR, February 8, 2018 – Meyer Memorial Trust, Oregon’s second-largest foundation, today announced Michelle J. DePass as its new president and chief executive officer. She will succeed Doug Stamm, who has led the $800 million trust since 2002.
DePass is currently the dean of the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy and Tishman Professor of Environmental Policy and Management at The New School in New York. Previously, she was appointed to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by President Barack Obama, where she served as assistant administrator for International and Tribal Affairs.
Prior to joining the EPA, DePass was a program officer at the Ford Foundation. Her portfolio focused on the environment and community development, including green economy and climate change, environmental health and justice, and indigenous environmental rights. DePass holds a bachelor’s degree from Tufts University, a Juris Doctor from Fordham Law School, an honorary doctorate from Fordham University and a Master of Public Administration from Baruch College, where she was a National Urban Fellow.
“We are thrilled to welcome Michelle as the new CEO of Meyer Memorial Trust,” said Meyer board chair Charles Wilhoite. “The hiring process was a collaborative effort among our talented staff, trustees, constituents and partners. We are confident that Michelle will uphold Meyer’s values and mission of creating a more equitable Oregon, based on her strong background in public service, environmental policy and community development. And we are sincerely appreciative of Doug's significant contributions to Meyer during his 16-year tenure, and look forward to continuing the great work that he led.”
When Stamm joined Meyer in 2002, Meyer’s endowment was $450 million. Now, it’s more than $800 million. Under his leadership, Meyer became one of the the first Oregon foundations to focus on mission-related investing, investing in programs not only for their return value but also for their social change potential. During the Great Recession, Meyer served as a stabilizing force for many of Oregon’s nonprofits that experienced severe economic impact. Meyer awarded grants to keep operations running and ensure that Oregonians who relied on nonprofit services continued receiving them. Since then, Meyer has redesigned itself to place equity at the center of its grants programs and internal decision-making. Stamm made it a priority to diversify Meyer’s staff and board of trustees during his tenure. Now, more than half of the staff identify as people of color and more than two-thirds identify as women.
"Disrupting the forces that drive inequality in this country is vitally important work," said Ford Foundation president Darren Walker. "Meyer Memorial Trust is an important player in this movement, pursuing a more flourishing and equitable Oregon. Michelle is the right person to serve as Meyer's new CEO — she has the vision, experience and courage to stand up for justice in Oregon."
DePass’ appointment culminates a broad-based national search that began last summer. Through The 360 Group, partnering with Murphy, Symonds & Stowell, Meyer received an overwhelming response to the CEO position; a diverse pool of more than 140 candidates applied, about 50 of them from Oregon, and applicants represented many types of equity perspectives and identities as well as leadership across private industry, public health, academia and the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors.
“Meyer Memorial Trust believes that everyone in Oregon deserves to live in a safe place, that the educational experience that we provide for our children will provide a world of opportunity, that the environment surrounding us should be a source of strength and richness, and that our communities sustain us with a sense of belonging and possibility, regardless of race or class,” said DePass. “For this to happen and make Oregon an equitable place, we must dismantle systemic oppression and have the discipline to ask ourselves over and over again: does this decision remove barriers or reinforce them? I am joining Meyer's dedicated board, committed staff and fellows and innovative grantees to remove those barriers. That is how we expand opportunity.”
DePass will begin work on April 30, 2018, and her family will follow her to Oregon. Her husband, Joshua Paulson, a civil rights attorney, is originally from Corvallis and still has family in the Pacific Northwest. Stamm will serve as an advisor to DePass for up to six months during the transition.
“I am proud of what our passionate team has accomplished over the past 15 years and of how Meyer has explored ways to make a greater impact in our community,” said Stamm. “These strides have included supporting advocacy efforts that increase equity and inclusion of Oregonians who experience disparities, in order to create a flourishing and equitable state. Michelle is the ideal person to proactively continue the organization’s momentum toward further equity in Oregon, and I look forward to seeing what she and the team accomplish together.”
“I’ve known Michelle for many years and have especially admired her commitment to social justice,” said Anne Kubisch, CEO of the Ford Family Foundation based in Roseburg, Ore. “She will bring a wealth of experience, intelligence and creativity to philanthropy in our state.”
“Michelle’s commitment to equity is long-standing, and has been tried, tested and cultivated throughout her exceptional career in nonprofit, government and philanthropic sectors,” said Kiran Ahuja, CEO at Philanthropy Northwest, who welcomed DePass to the region as a colleague, partner and fellow presidential appointee.“She is well prepared to tackle the complex problems our diverse communities face, and the broad range of stakeholders and leaders she will work with in Oregon to ensure a coordinated and inclusive approach to Meyer’s mission and work.”
“Michelle is an extraordinary choice for Meyer Memorial Trust, a foundation deeply committed to innovation, risk-taking and equity,” said Sharon Alpert, president of the Nathan Cummings Foundation. “I have known Michelle for more than two decades and her vision and leadership is exactly what philanthropy needs at this moment. She is one of the foremost experts working at the intersection of environmental justice and community and economic development. Her passion and commitment to stand up for justice for the most underserved, and her collaborative and generous spirit, will create meaningful and lasting change for communities in Oregon and across the country.”
Meyer Memorial Trust, established in 1982, is among the largest private foundations in Oregon, with current assets of roughly $800 million. Over its lifetime, Meyer has awarded grants and PRIs in excess of $761 million to more than 3,600 organizations. Today, Meyer focuses on work in Oregon, in four areas Oregonians have identified as crucial to making the state better for all of its residents: housing, education, the environment and building community. Meyer also funds ongoing initiatives related to affordable housing, the Willamette River and, to buttress education policy, research and engagement by the Chalkboard Project. Meyer no longer accepts grant requests for work done outside of Oregon.
Learn more about Meyer’s efforts to make Oregon a flourishing and equitable state at mmt.org.