Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Character and Impact of a Foundation(al) Leader

On Throwback Thursday, we'd like to take it back to this year's Legacy Awards at AT&T Park, where we celebrated visionary leaders in San Francisco's philanthropy realm.  Former San Francisco mayor Art Agnos offered a vivid introduction to the foundation that has supported America SCORES Bay Area and countless other important community programs that exist to level the playing field and cast a wide net of support for San Francisco's families. The Louis R. Lurie Foundation Trustees, including well-known philanthropist and former Giants owner Bob Lurie, are an inspiration. Art gave us permission to publish his introduciton below:

Louis R. Lurie Foundation Introduction
America SCORES Legacy Awards
Art Agnos
June 4, 2014

Art Agnos introduces the Louis R. Lurie Foundation at the 2014 Legacy Awards 

I welcome the opportunity to join America Scores in honoring the Louis R. Lurie Foundation.

This night is special because it is the first time in a 50-year history of service to the community that the Lurie Foundation has ever agreed to this kind of public recognition.

And America Scores, under the leadership of its founder and director Colin Schmidt, is exactly the kind of non-profit organization doing marvelous work in our schools with our kids in integrating soccer, poetry, and service learning that the Louis R. Lurie Foundation brings to public attention.

I know first hand because my neighborhood elementary school on Potrero Hill is the beneficiary of its Field of Dreams Initiative, and I see the kids on that field every day. 

It is most fitting that we meet here tonight at AT&T park.

Baseball and the Lurie name go together in San Francisco where the public knows Bob best for saving the Giants and for his leadership teams in baseball.  But long before that, Bob has been creating superb teams in the business world with the Lurie Company. 

And in tonight’s focus we pay tribute to an extraordinary philanthropic team as manifested by the Louis R. Lurie Foundation where Bob serves with his Fellow Trustees as “first among equals.”

Bob and Connie have always been among the most generous people in our country; however, they never want or accept a lot of attention for it.  But tonight, I have the mike, and so I am going to be a little more personal than these events usually allow.

I first met Bob as a candidate for mayor of San Francisco in 1987 when I was an underdog upstart at 15% in the polls. As a part of my campaign, I was opposing a proposal on the ballot to create a ballpark at 7th and Townsend Streets several blocks from here to the west where the view in centerfield would be the I-280 freeway.

I made a courtesy call to Bob and told him that we could do better than that, and if I won he would be the first person I called to begin that effort.  I won and I did call him, and the rest is history right here.

This was the site and this was the design he approved. Because of an earthquake, it took a little longer than both of us hoped, but this is the same park we envisioned in 1989 when we stood where the Willie Mays statue is today to make some big decisions for San Francisco.

Four years later, I got beat and left office.  That was hard for me.

Now, when you are the mayor, you meet a lot of people, important people, who become “friends.” When you lose and are no longer the mayor a lot of people who became your “friends” just disappear! Never hear from them again.

Not with Bob Lurie…it was just the opposite. Frankly, while I was mayor Bob was an important business relationship for me, not a friend. 

HE chose to become a friend after I lost. He didn’t disappear.

Bob Lurie

As my friend, we have travelled together with our wives around the world and socialized together often. Bob and I even slept together…(I know what I said).  It was a two-man tent at the Bohemian Grove because he thought it was a good cultural enrichment experience for a liberal politician like me.

By the way, Bob is not perfect.  The only exception to the unqualified warmth and loyal friendship I have felt for the past 22 years- the ONLY exception is when we were partners in a $5 golf match against Gene Valla and Bishop Swing, and I missed a 2 foot putt to win.

Now what does all this personal stuff have to do with tonight’s honoree: the Louis R. Lurie Foundation? 

One word: Values.

The values that started with the Lurie family and a desire to give back to the community has been done by a phenomenal partnership reflected in a special group of men and women trustees truly worthy of your recognition tonight.

It is about a foundation that was built on long lasting, loyal relationships and the humanity of the Trustees themselves that has endured to this day and done so much to advance the common good in our community.

It is about a foundation whose Trustees did not allow its work to become static. It reinvented itself regularly so as to be relevant to current needs of a modern society while staying true to its mission.

It is about a foundation whose Trustees do NOT occupy their seats to act like traditional philanthropy.

Indeed their philanthropy has looked more like activist empowerment mandated by their commitment to personally visit every program they fund. 

The Trustees, without any staff, engage with every single program under consideration for funding with site visits, evaluations, and accountability reports.

That is why the Lurie Foundation far exceeds the toughest criteria of the national Foundation Rating Agencies.

It is quite elementary: the objective for the top rated foundations in this country is that most of the money must go directly to program funding and not executive pay and administrative overhead. 

So nationally…the gold standards are these:

9 out of 10 foundations spend 65% on direct service with 35% on executive pay and overhead.

7 out of 10 foundations spend at least 75% on services with 25% on executive and overhead.

The Lurie Foundation spends more than 90% on direct service and less than 10% on overhead. 

There are none better in this country.

That is because the Lurie Foundation trustees… know their mission and do their work to be an active instrument to improve the lives of youth and their families through development of self-reliance…self-esteem…compassion…respect for diversity…as well as a strong desire to do the right thing. 

They encourage projects that have the potential to be replicated, demonstrate innovation, and promote understanding for an increasingly diverse society.
With this in mind, I am proud to present the Trustees of the Louis R. Lurie Foundation:

The Louis R. Lurie Foundation Trustees

Mike Kurzman is Trustee Vice President and has been a board member for more than 40 years. Mike has lived in San Francisco in the past but now lives primarily in Chicago where he emphasizes educational issues for the underserved kids.  He is a stickler for the onsite visits that all board members must make.

Gary Wood, a member of the Trustees for almost 30 years, shares the Chicago focus with Mike Kurzman. He has worked in the non-profit field for a long time now and adds a professional expertise in education as an executive with Catalyst Charter Schools in Chicago.

Gene Valla has been a member of the Board for about 40 years. He is the benevolent green eyeshade Chief Financial Officer with a big heart and compassion. He follows where the money goes and what the return is for it in every program.

Jim Hunt, an extraordinary lawyer, is the Secretary and also been a long time member for 25 years as well. He is more popular than Gene Valla because he does not talk as long.   And when he does talk…his advice and counsel is nearly always the way things end up.

Dana Lurie is the newest member of the Trustees having been a member for the last 10 years.  As the youngest member and part of the next generation of leadership in this city…she has brought a special dimension with her energy, compassion and human rights commitment with an emphasis on underserved women and girls.   

And the catalyst for getting all this done is Nancy Terry.
She has been the go-to person since joining the Lurie company 29 years ago and everyone of these trustees will tell you they could not do it without her.

Now take a look at this video to truly understand some of what the Louis R. Lurie Foundation has done in our community:

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