September 29, 2008
After forty-two years of continuous service to the field of philanthropy and twenty-one years at the Foundation Center, eighteen of those as president, our dear friend and colleague Sara Engelhardt is preparing to close out this phase of her excellent adventure. We'd like to take a minute to look back on that career -- and to wish Sara well as she begins an exciting new phase of her life.
Sara joined the Carnegie Corporation of New York in 1966 after spending two prior summers there and rose rapidly through the ranks, becoming secretary of the corporation, a position she held for twelve years, in 1975. During that period, Sara was responsible for managing Carnegie's grants and also served as the foundation's program officer for philanthropy and the nonprofit sector as well as its women in higher education and public life program.
Sara joined the Foundation Center in 1987 as executive vice president and became president of the organization in 1991. During Sara's tenure as president, the center's role as a knowledge leader in the field grew exponentially, as it expanded its research beyond regular reports on trends in foundation growth and giving to include studies on social justice funding, international philanthropy, and the philanthropic response to 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina; opened a field office in Atlanta, which extended its public service activites into the Southeast; greatly expanded the center's Cooperating Collections network, especially into inner cities and rural communities around the country; and established a robust Web site that is visited by more than 55,000 visitors a day.
Over the decades, Sara served on numerous boards within the sector -- the Council on Foundations, Independent Sector, the National Charities Information Bureau, Amigos de las Americas, the Consortium for the Advancement of Private Higher Education, Girls Inc., Legal Momentum, and the National Council for Research on Women -- and established herself among her colleagues as one of the most thoughtful, knowledgeable, and trusted leaders in the field. Indeed, Sara is one of only four individuals, and the only woman, to appear on the NPT Power & Influence Top 50 for the first ten years of its existence (1998-2007).
As impressive as those career achievements are, the things that really set Sara apart are her wonderful laugh and sense of humor, her great personal integrity, and her empathy. All of us who have worked with her will miss the laughs shared on the softball field and at holiday parties, the casual lunchtime conversations in the lounge or over a hand of bridge, the occasional note of congratulation or comfort. She has a remarkable ability to connect with people, to make them feel comfortable and at ease.
If you know Sara, you know she already has lots of great things planned and to look forward to -- quality time with her daughters and grandkids, travel, yoga, the joys and delights of the Upper West Side. And those of us at the center know she'll always be available to answer our questions and give us good advice.
So please join me (in the comments section below) in congratulating Sara on a job well done and in wishing her all the best in the next exciting phase of her life!
-- Mitch Nauffts