Wallace Foundation President M. Christine DeVita Announces Plans to Step Down June 2011

June 15, 2010

Contact: Lucas Held
Director of Communications


Wallace Foundation President M. Christine DeVita
Announces Plans to Step Down June 2011

Board of Directors begins national search for a successor

NEW YORK, N.Y.  – M. Christine DeVita, president of The Wallace Foundation, today announced her plans to step down in June 2011, after nearly 24 years of leading the foundation and overseeing its transformation from a collection of small family foundations into one of the country’s largest national foundations and a respected source of credible knowledge.

Under her leadership, Wallace has developed an inquiry-based approach that goes beyond just giving away money. Working with grantee partners from across the nation, it develops and tests innovative ideas “on the ground,” gathers credible, objective evidence on what is most effective and why, and then shares that knowledge with policymakers and practitioners who can bring those effective ideas to life in ways that benefit people.  During her tenure, DeVita presided over grant disbursements totaling more than $1.3 billion in 47 states and the District of Columbia. In addition, Wallace has published nearly 200 research and other reports on the results of its work, which today are downloaded from the foundation’s website at the rate of more than 200,000 per year.

“Chris’ stewardship of the foundation from its infancy has been exemplary,” said Kevin W. Kennedy, chairman of Wallace’s Board of Directors. “Her ‘facts are friendly’ approach, her insistence on evidence-based strategies and her commitment to objectively and credibly measuring and publishing results has created an organization that is a worthy philanthropic legacy to the generosity of our founders, DeWitt and Lila Acheson Wallace. The board is most appreciative of her extraordinary service through 24 years of challenges, growth and positive change. We are confident that the strong team she has developed will help us make a thoughtful and seamless transition to new leadership.” 

In reflecting on her tenure, DeVita said, “I have been given an opportunity that comes to few people – the honor of creating a new organization, one that has become known for its systemic and integrated approach that results in objective evidence on which policymakers and practitioners can rely. I have had the privilege of working with talented board and staff members whose vision and commitment has led to our success. Together, we have achieved more than any one of us could have imagined, and I am pleased to leave the foundation in their capable hands.”

Under DeVita’s leadership, the foundation has primarily focused on education, out-of-school time and the arts – key interests of the Wallaces during their lifetime. All of the foundation’s work applies a unified strategy combining program, evaluation and communication expertise in an effort to deliver social benefits beyond the recipients of its direct grants. This innovative approach to philanthropy has been profiled in the book Creative Philanthropy by Helmut Anheier and Diana Leat (Routledge, 2006), and in two case studies by the Center for Effective Philanthropy¸ Aiming for Excellence at The Wallace Foundation (2009), and More than Money: Making a Difference with Assistance Beyond the Grant (2008).

Using this approach, some of the foundation’s recent achievements include:

  • Demonstrating the crucial role of effective school leadership in school reform efforts, a role now reflected in the US Department of Education’s current priorities;
  • Pioneering the development of coordinated systems both in out-of-school time and in arts education, with the result that children’s access to those services have improved;
  • Working with dozens of arts organizations to help them reach new audiences, and developing a library of knowledge useful to other arts and cultural organizations;
  • Helping state arts agencies find ways to broaden citizens’ access to the arts;
  • Creating career paths for school paraprofessionals to become certified teachers, thus expanding the pool of teachers in some of the nation’s most disadvantaged communities.

Kennedy announced that the board has established a search committee, which will immediately begin the process of selecting a search firm and conducting a national search for DeVita’s successor. The board expects to consider both internal and external candidates.

The Wallace Foundation is an independent, national foundation dedicated to supporting and sharing effective ideas and practices that expand learning and enrichment opportunities for all people. The Foundation maintains an online library of lessons about what it has learned, including knowledge from its current efforts aimed at: strengthening educational leadership to improve student achievement; enhancing out-of-school-time and summer learning opportunities; and building appreciation and demand for the arts. www.wallacefoundation.org