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Good-Bye, Sara, and Good Luck!

September 29, 2008

Sle_headshot_5After 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

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Posted by Pattie Johnson  |   September 29, 2008 at 04:33 PM


It has been a great pleasure working for you over my 15-year tenure with the Center. I have learned so much from you. Your knowledge of the sector has been an inspiration and your people skills have been a guide. I and so many others have benefited tremendously from knowing you.

You have a very exciting retirement planned. To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, Oh the places you will go! The things you will see! Enjoy your grandchildren and yoga and all of the other things you will be involved in.

Posted by Alyson Tufts  |   September 29, 2008 at 05:01 PM

You have been a true asset to the nonprofit community and the philanthropic sector over lo these many years. While working with you for two decades at our beloved Foundation Center, I have learned so much from your incisive thinking and your inspiring leadership.
We look forward to your new endeavors yet to come, as you enter the next phase of your life's journey. Cheers, and see ya!
Best regards, Alyson

Posted by Matt  |   September 29, 2008 at 05:23 PM

Sara has been not only a great leader of the Foundation Center but also an important and thoughtful voice within the nonprofit sector in general. It's been an honor to work here during her tenure, and I wish her a wonderful retirement; she deserves it!

Posted by Janet Camarena  |   September 29, 2008 at 07:44 PM


I'm going to miss working with you, but these days all retired New Yorkers end up in California, don't they? Let me know when you start up yoga classes out here because based on all that I've learned from you over the years, I know you would be an excellent teacher.

Posted by Regina Faighes  |   September 30, 2008 at 09:05 AM

Dear Sara,
I am going to miss you, because you always are so friendly and cheerful. I especially am going to miss the surprise visits from your lovely family! I do hope that from time-to-time you and your family will stop by. I also that you will keep us up-to-date on your grandchildren's progress by submitting their photos to The Centerpiece. I wish you health and happiness in your retirement, and may God continue to bless you and your dear family!
Regina Faighes

Posted by Regina Mahone  |   September 30, 2008 at 09:43 AM

I had a chance to research the Foundation Center last year, while writing our history for a small Communications project. It was a pleasure to read such wonderful things being said about our president in the Chronicle of Philanthropy and the many NPT Power & Influence Top 50 excerpts Sara’s achieved. I felt proud to be a member of an organization whose president was not only well-respected, but an inspiration across the sector. Good luck and Happy Retirement, Sara!

Posted by Rebecca MacLean  |   September 30, 2008 at 10:16 AM

Dear Sara,

Although I have never told you this (now's my chance!) you have always been a role model for me - a confident and knowledgeable leader and an elegant and gracious woman.

You have contributed so much to the field of philanthropy and to our lives here at the Foundation Center!

I will miss you!

Best of luck with this next exciting phase of your life, with your family and your broad range of interests.

I hope that you will come back and visit us, and continue to stay in touch.

Best always,


Posted by Cindy Bailie  |   September 30, 2008 at 12:43 PM


Your interest in and understanding of Cleveland's philanthropic scene was always enormously appreciated here and will be missed. And your dedication and service to the field and to the Center has always served as inspiration for me personally. What a role model! I wish you all the best in retirement and in whatever direction the next exciting phase of your life takes you.


Posted by Rick Schoff  |   September 30, 2008 at 05:10 PM

Sara -

Godspeed on the next leg of your journey. I expect to hear all about it, as well as see a steady stream of well-composed digipix (once you get the hang of your new gear).

Thanks again for everything....

- Rick

Posted by Michael Seltzer  |   October 03, 2008 at 01:17 PM


Fortunately, I have many personal and professional memories over the last 20 years from our times together--learning of your mother's foray into New York's gay square dancing scene, recollections of your Hawaiian ancestors, and most importantly, our serendipitous lunch at the old Steak Frites not long after I assumed the presidency of NYRAG..

It was as we might say a 'no agenda' lunch. Over the course of a wide-ranging discussion, however, you asked me if I knew any organization that would be interested in subletting half of the Center's new fourth floor. I said, 'How about NYRAG!?" You said 'yes', and the rest is history. Together, we were able to make 79 Fifth Avenue even more of the nation's preeminent destination for both donors and nonprofit orrganizations. Rarely has such a collaboration between infrastructure organizations happened so easily and smoothly! There was no need for a joint board task force to discuss the pros and cons, and develop a plan of action. We just did it! It is just one of your myriad contributions to the advancement of our field. I very much look forward to staying in touch.


Michael Seltzer

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