NEW YORK, January 19, 2018—The Ford Foundation today announced the appointment of Hilary Pennington as its first executive vice president, a role in which she will oversee all of the foundation’s programs in the US and globally. Previously, Pennington served as vice president for the foundation’s programming on Education, Creativity, and Free Expression.
As executive vice president, Pennington will work closely with the foundation’s president, Darren Walker, and two program vice presidents, Martín Abregú and Xavier Briggs, to better align grant making across all program areas and regional offices. The creation of this position is the latest step in the foundation’s move to increase efficiency and ensure its programs are designed to achieve collective impact.
“Hilary is exceptionally well-suited to lead our programming as we focus on addressing the systems and forces that drive inequality,” said Walker. “Her strategic vision, deep experience, and calm and effective management style are invaluable assets for the Ford Foundation. I am confident that this new leadership role—with Hilary in it—will make the foundation more effective at serving the organizations on the frontlines of social change.”
Pennington joined the Ford Foundation in 2013 as a program vice president, leading the foundation’s work on arts and culture, documentary filmmaking, journalism, and youth leadership. She has also led its efforts to build and strengthen the broader field of philanthropy. During this time, she helped launch the foundation’s BUILD initiative, a five-year $5 billion investment in the long-term capacity and sustainability of up to 300 social justice organizations around the world. Pennington also led the foundation’s work in Africa and the Middle East. As a child, witnessing the inequality of apartheid in her father’s home country of South Africa helped shape her lifelong passion for social justice.
“I am honored to take on this new role at the Ford Foundation,” said Pennington. “Inequality is at the root of nearly every social ill, and it impacts all people, everywhere. By increasing collaboration across our program areas and regional offices, we can ensure that all our grant decisions are strategic and meaningful—and responsive to changes in the world.”
Before coming to the Ford Foundation, Pennington served as director of Education, Postsecondary Success, and Special Initiatives at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where she guided grant programs across the US. She was also senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and president and CEO of Jobs for the Future (JFF), a research and policy development organization she co-founded. In 22 years as president and CEO of JFF, Pennington helped the organization become one of the most influential in the country on issues of education, youth transitions, workforce development, and future work requirements. She also served on President Clinton’s transition team and as co-chair of President Clinton’s Presidential Advisory Committee on Technology.
The executive vice president is the most senior program position at the foundation, and is accountable to the president and the board of trustees.
“I look forward to working closely with Hilary as a strategic thought partner, and I know she will help me become a more effective president at a time when our work has never been more important,” added Walker.