Heinz Endowments president retiring
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The top job at Pittsburgh's second-largest philanthropy is up for grabs now that The Heinz Endowments President Maxwell King intends to retire next spring, having given away more than $500 million in grants in nine years at the helm.
"I love the work," he said in an interview, but it's "time to go on to the next phase of life. I will be 64. That ain't young."
Officials within the nonprofit foundation community expect 46-year-old Grant Oliphant, Heinz's vice president of programs and planning and a former staff member of the late U.S. Sen. John Heinz, to be a strong contender for the high-profile position, which currently pays Mr. King a base salary of $390,000.
A seven-person nominating committee led by foundation chair Teresa Heinz Kerry will consider external as well as internal candidates, having "tentatively identified" Washington, D.C.-based search firm Russell-Reynolds to assist with a national selection process that likely will conclude at the end of 2007, Mr. King told staff members yesterday in an e-mail. Mr. King will not serve on the search committee, which also includes three sons of the late senator -- John, Andre and Chris -- as well as Heinz Endowments board members James Walton, Carol Brown and Judy Davenport.
"Nothing in my professional life has given me such satisfaction and pleasure as my experience working here," wrote Mr. King, former editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, who turned 63 in May.
"But I'm older . . . and it's time."
With $1.4 billion in assets, The Heinz Endowments is one of the 50 largest foundations in the United States, second only to the $2 billion Richard King Mellon Foundation in the Pittsburgh area. Handing out an average of $60 million a year in grants, it remains a key source of support for countless nonprofit organizations that depend on Heinz's money to fund arts, education, economic development, children and family programs.
It unveiled a new funding strategy this spring that allocates 30 percent of its annual spending over the next five years to reform of the Pittsburgh Public Schools; an improvement in the quality and pace of Downtown real estate development; and support for economic development projects that combine the pursuit of technological innovation with a concern for the environment.
The sharpening of focus means some traditional grantees will receive less money -- or no money at all.
"That will be painful," Mr. King said in March.
The former newspaperman brought a brawling style to the stodgy world of philanthropy, urging greater transparency and accountability from a sector that traditionally is quiet about its affairs. The act that attracted the most attention was his 2002 decision, made with two other local foundations, to pull $3.7 million from the Pittsburgh Public Schools and to announce that withdrawal at a news conference. The funding was later restored after reforms were made.
McCune Foundation Director Hank Beukema called Mr. King a person of "high energy and high content" who "wanted to get things done and wasn't satisfied with the status quo or a laissez-faire approach to getting work done. I found in his approach to things a kindred spirit."
While "it is not like the rest of us were comatose before he showed up" in 1999, Mr. Beukema added, "his track record shows he was not afraid to take on difficult challenges."
Before he leaves, Mr. King intends to focus on making city and county government more efficient, on improving the quality of Pittsburgh's public school system and on developing economic opportunities. He cited his membership on a panel led by University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark Nordenberg created to study greater cooperation and consolidation between city and county government.
Asked if he has time to accomplish everything on his agenda, Mr. King said, "it remains to be seen about local government. Can we make changes that represent a really progressive approach? I am still hopeful."
Mr. King maintains that his decision to leave has nothing to do with a collapse last November from cardiac arrest while at the Carnegie Museum of Art. In fact, he has made a full recovery. "I have never felt better physically than I do right now," he said.
Mr. King and his wife Peggy intend to stay in the Pittsburgh area instead of moving to New England, as originally planned when they arrived in 1999. He hopes to serve on local boards and find an "interesting" writing project that draws from the heritage of southwestern Pennsylvania.
First Published June 4, 2007 11:40 pm