After eight years leading one of New Jersey’s largest and most well-known philanthropic organizations, Chris Daggett is retiring as president and CEO of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation on September 1.
Under Daggett’s leadership, the Foundation recently completed a strategic plan that envisions an equitable New Jersey. The new vision and mission, and the refreshed goals and strategies, move Dodge boldly in a new direction more reflective of the current and rapidly changing demographics and needs of the state.
“I am very excited about the strategic plan, and believe it will enable Dodge to help citizens and nonprofit organizations become more engaged in their communities and more inclusive in their work. I have been fortunate to be involved in this important shift in priorities and now leave to my successor the challenges and opportunities of implementing the plan,” Daggett said.
During his tenure, Daggett also built on the Foundation’s leadership position in arts, education, environment, poetry, and technical assistance training to nonprofit organizations in the state. In addition, out of concern for the national dramatic downsizing and closing of many newspaper companies, he initiated and led a greatly expanded focus of Dodge on local news and information through a new Informed Communities program.
“The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and, more importantly, the people of New Jersey have benefited from Chris’ dedication to the state, its arts, environment and education,” said Board chair Christopher “Kim” Elliman. “Chris’ signature achievements were in orchestrating the philanthropic commitment to fostering an ecosystem for local news, for the response and rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy, and for the increased focus on training STEM teachers for New Jersey’s schools. Chris worked tirelessly to make New Jersey a better place to live and work, from the urban north to the rural south of the state, recognizing the broad diversity of New Jersey and crafting a more equitable society. We are grateful for his eight-plus years and for all that he has and will continue to do for this state.”
Established in 1974 through the generosity of Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge, the Foundation provides financial and technical support to nonprofit organizations throughout New Jersey. It also presents biennially the largest poetry festival in the country, bringing together the world’s most acclaimed poets including numerous U.S. Poets Laureate and winners of virtually every major poetry award. On October 18-21, the Festival will be held in Newark for the fifth consecutive time.
Since Daggett started in 2010, the Foundation has awarded more than $90 million in grants to hundreds of organizations. It also has received recognition for its work in the Informed Communities program through nearly $5 million in funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Democracy Fund. In addition, Daggett raised over $10 million of support from other foundations in New Jersey and New York City for Dodge’s work in helping five New Jersey universities revamp their Master’s degree teacher training programs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM, and, when adding the arts, STEAM), through the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.
In 2012, Dodge and the Community Foundation of New Jersey raised over $7 million to assist victims of Hurricane Sandy, providing support for mid- and long-term recovery. The New Jersey Recovery Fund helped with important efforts of land-use planning and social and mental health services, among other means of support beyond immediate needs of food, clothing and shelter provided by local, county, state, and federal emergency relief organizations.
“Working for the Dodge Foundation has been a remarkable opportunity for which I am most grateful. I am proud of the staff and trustees for all that we have been able to accomplish together, and look forward to following the work of the Foundation,” Daggett added. “I am committed to identifying other opportunities and challenges that allow me to continue contributing to the well-being of the state. ”
Prior to coming to Dodge, Daggett served as Deputy Chief of Staff and Cabinet Secretary to Governor Thomas H. Kean, Region 2 Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. He also was a managing director of William E. Simon & Sons and a principal at JM Sorge Environmental Consultants. He has served on numerous nonprofit boards in education, the environment, and public policy over the past 25 years. Currently, he serves on the boards of the Schumann Fund for New Jersey and the Hudson River Foundation. In 2009, he ran as an independent candidate for governor.
Daggett will stay through the summer months to ensure a smooth transition of leadership, and will be available as needed afterwards to provide help to the Foundation.
Photo at top is © T Charles Erickson Photography