By Neely Tucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Robert Gallucci will be the new president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Chicago-based organization announced today, in tapping the veteran Washington envoy and educator to head one of the nation's most prestigious philanthropies.
Gallucci, 63, has been Georgetown University's dean of the School of Foreign Service for 13 years, after a career as a diplomat and negotiator working with North Korea, Russia, Iraq and the former Yugoslavia. He will leave the university June 30 and begin his five-year term at the MacArthur Foundation the next day.
"It's an opportunity not to be missed," he said yesterday in a phone interview, ticking off the foundation's grantmaking interests. "Peace and security . . . human rights, international justice, conservation, sustainable development, education, migration, international health -- that's quite a menu."
The foundation -- perhaps best known for its annual Fellows Program (often called "genius grants," worth $500,000 each and given with no strings for original and groundbreaking work in the arts and sciences) -- makes about 500 awards a year in dozens of countries, in areas ranging from the arts and media to global security to juvenile justice reform. The foundation made a $50 million grant last year to preserve biodiversity in eight "hot spots" from the northern Andes mountains in Latin America to Madagascar off Africa's southeastern coast. It also gave $2 million to the East Asia Institute in South Korea as part of a regional security program.
But the agency is facing the same downturn as the global markets. Its investment assets totaled $6.9 billion at the end of 2007; that had shrunk to just more than $5 billion at the end of 2008. Still, the foundation's budget for grants increased last year to $260 million, up from $235 million the year prior.
"The opportunity for what our money can do is particularly important now," said Robert E. Denham, chairman of the foundation's board of directors, and a lawyer at Munger, Tolles & Olson in Los Angeles. "It magnifies the importance of making smart choices."
Gallucci will replace Jonathan Fanton, retiring after two terms as president. Denham said the board was sold on Gallucci based on his extensive international experience and his ability to make difficult decisions under duress.
"And he enjoys life, he enjoys every conversation that he has, and that enjoyment is infectious," Denham said.
Gallucci worked in international peacekeeping posts for more than two decades before joining Georgetown. He was assistant secretary of state for political and military affairs in 1992-93, served as the country's chief negotiator during a nuclear crisis with North Korea in 1994 and was a special adviser for the implementation of the Dayton Accords, the peace agreement that brought the war in Bosnia to a close. He worked with Strobe Talbott (now president of the Brookings Institution, then deputy secretary of state under President Bill Clinton) so often during the mid-1990s that Talbot joked yesterday: "We saw each other more often than we did our wives."
Gallucci and his wife, Jennifer Sims, a visiting professor at Georgetown's Center for Peace and Security Studies, have two children. He is a native of Brooklyn and received his bachelor's degree at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and his master's and doctorate at Brandeis University.