PITTSBURGH, December 1, 2021 – The Heinz Endowments announced today that the foundation’s President, Grant Oliphant, is leaving one of western Pennsylvania’s largest philanthropies to assume a new role as chief executive officer of the San Diego-based Conrad Prebys Foundation effective March 2022.
Mr. Oliphant, who has headed The Heinz Endowments for eight years, will leave his current post at the end of February 2022 after three decades of philanthropic and public service stewardship in Pittsburgh, most recently through his leadership at the Endowments, a family foundation with assets of more than $2 billion and grantmaking that now exceeds $90 million annually.
“When Grant shared his decision, my first thought was to wonder how the Endowments and Pittsburgh would get on without such a cherished leader and true friend. Of course, the answer came immediately that, through the decades of his commitment to this region, organization and our family, we were as well prepared to meet the future as we could ever hope to be. We will miss Grant terribly, but we also wish him well and can’t wait to learn how this next chapter in his life will blossom. Meanwhile, the work of the Endowments continues, including initiating a national search for a new leader, which we will undertake very soon,” Mr. André Heinz, Chairman of the Endowments, said.
“Leading the Endowments has been the most treasured and special of honors for me,” said Mr. Oliphant. “The Endowments is one of America’s best, most interesting and most effective foundations, focused on a town and working for a family I deeply respect. But helping to scale up what will become San Diego’s largest foundation and to influence the potential of philanthropy in a community where its role is still evolving was too interesting an entrepreneurial opportunity to pass up, especially because both of my parents are out West. As for so many of us, the events of the past two years have spurred me to reassess my priorities, including the importance of proximity to them at this stage of life.”
As President, Mr. Oliphant reshaped the Endowment’s grantmaking around the core ethos of building a more just community through a focus on three strategic grantmaking areas—sustainability, creativity, and learning. Under his leadership, the foundation became known nationally for its courageous use of its voice and the excellence of its grantmaking on behalf of better environmental policies, more sustainable and equitable economic practices, stronger supports and policies for military veterans, a rejuvenated commitment to the arts, and the advancement of a truly inclusive society and efforts to combat racism and other forms of social injustice.
During his tenure, the Endowments played a leading role, alongside its key philanthropic partners, in helping the Pittsburgh region to respond to the pandemic by meeting its emergency needs while setting the stage for later recovery. Other significant accomplishments include:
- The creation of the new Center for Shared Prosperity at Carnegie Mellon University, the nation’s first serious attempt to directly align the work and assets of a global research university with the needs of vulnerable communities and populations around it.
- Through the Almono partnership—which includes the Endowments, the Richard King Mellon Foundation, and the Benedum Foundation—crucial progress in the emergence of Hazelwood Green as a major development site for Pittsburgh’s innovation economy modeling ambitious sustainability and community standards. Recent advancements include the opening of the historic Roundhouse and Mill 19 buildings, completion of major road infrastructure, the opening of the site’s popular public plaza, completion of a riverfront development plan, codification of the site’s commitment to green and inclusive design and development standards in the city’s formal preliminary land development plan for the site, the announcement of major new university partnerships, and deepened community connections with the surrounding Hazelwood neighborhood.
- The launch of a major ongoing democracy initiative, encompassing support for a more accurate count on the 2020 Census, voter education initiatives, fair redistricting practices, voting rights, and support for community-centered public journalism.
- The adoption of a policy focus for the foundation’s work on behalf of military veterans, expressly connecting insights gained in Pittsburgh to potential policy changes at the national level.
- A more explicit foundation commitment to the role of the arts in fostering a healthy community, including a 60% increase in the normal arts giving budget, continued operating support for major cultural organizations, the launch of a multi-year initiative on creative learning, a strengthening of the foundation’s program for individual artists, and a $10-million partnership with the Ford Foundation celebrating diverse regional “cultural treasures.”
- An increase in support for advocacy and public processes to drive improvements in air and water quality, to expand the use of green infrastructure, and to move the Pittsburgh region’s economy away from reliance on resource extraction and toward more sustainable, economically-beneficial energy sources.
- A significant deepening of the foundation’s commitment to early childhood care and education, along with the adoption of a policy focus for its educational work, and the facilitation of a new County office for children overseeing critical issues affecting children and families in the region.
- The use of more and better data and research to inform public decision making, including through the launch of the Ohio River Valley Institute, extensive research on race and social dynamics, and the setting of detailed strategies and metrics for all of the Endowments’ work.
- The convening of influential community conversations around sustainable design standards through p4, a partnership with Mayor Bill Peduto and the City of Pittsburgh; and courageous nonprofit action through the foundation’s “moral leadership” series.
- The building of an excellent staff team recognized for their dedication, expertise and excellence, along with the creation of a collaborative organizational culture.
- A successful transition in the Endowments’ board leadership from Teresa Heinz to the next generation of Heinz family members.
A firm believer that foundations contribute value through leadership and expertise and not just funding, Mr. Oliphant has served on multiple commissions and boards, including the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust; the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, where he led and co-chairs the formation of the board’s Racial Equity Committee; the August Wilson Center for African-American Culture; the statewide Blue Ribbon Commission on Election Security; and the Nominating Committee for the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority. Nationally, he is a board member and immediate past chair of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, which works to promote better philanthropy nationwide, and previously chaired philanthropy’s Communications Network. Recognized as a leading proponent of the idea that philanthropy must be vocal in the defense and advancement of its values, Mr. Oliphant created the Endowments’ blog ”On Point” and podcast “We Can Be.”
Prior to rejoining the Endowments as President in 2014, Mr. Oliphant served as president and CEO of The Pittsburgh Foundation from 2008 to 2014, where he recast the community foundation’s mission around a commitment to community leadership. He led the organization through a period of major growth, the largest in its history, along with the development of significant community initiatives, broadened donor engagement, and the realignment of funding priorities. During his tenure, he led successful efforts to rescue the August Wilson Center from bankruptcy sale (an effort he continued at the Endowments) and to save Pittsburgh’s public radio station (now WESA-FM) and convert it to news format. He also helped launch The Pittsburgh Promise, the largest scholarship program of its kind in the nation, Pittsburgh’s groundbreaking Day of Giving, the Pittsburgh Gives online giving portal, needs alerts to encourage public giving to community needs, and, in partnership with the United Way, a public advocacy effort to preserve social programs with demonstrated effectiveness.
Previously, Mr. Oliphant served the Endowments in a variety of senior management capacities, including Communications Director and later Vice President of programs. Before leaving for a brief stint as an advertising executive, he served from 1993 to 1999 as director of communications for Teresa Heinz and the Heinz family’s extensive philanthropic activities, where he helped shape and launch the Heinz Awards program, now in its 26th year. He was the former press secretary for the late U.S. Sen. John Heinz from 1988 until the Senator’s tragic death in 1991.
“Grant has been a cherished part of our family for many years and will always remain so. He has an unusual gift for identifying what needs to happen in a community and how to bring innovative ideas to fruition. It is with deep emotion that, on behalf of the Endowments and our family, I congratulate him on his decision and his new role, even though he will be missed. San Diego is fortunate, as I know he will bring his singular mix of deep-thinking, drive and compassion to his new work and community,” said Teresa Heinz.
“We are excited to welcome Grant to San Diego early next year,” said Dan Yates, President of the Board of Directors for The Conrad Prebys Foundation. He brings such a unique perspective earned from 25+ years as a philanthropic leader and executive. His pursuit of innovative philanthropic ventures and his unwavering focus on impact will accelerate our Foundation’s work in the San Diego region.”
“This is truly a rare opportunity to apply my skills and experience to building a new organization almost from the ground up and to create a template for meaningful community philanthropy at a scale not seen before in San Diego,” Mr. Oliphant said, adding: “I am forever in the Heinz family’s debt for the amazing opportunities they have given me to learn and grow alongside them in the practice of philanthropy as a true and disciplined craft. What I believe about the power and responsibility of this work to contribute to a community’s growth, I learned here, from them and from Pittsburgh, and I look forward to applying those lessons now in a new context and in a place where the story of philanthropy’s potential is only beginning to be written.”
About The Conrad Prebys Foundation
With assets expected to total over $1.4 billion, The Conrad Prebys Foundation is positioned to become San Diego’s largest foundation. With a mission to improve lives and provide opportunities for all San Diegans, the foundation focuses its work on the visual and performing arts, higher education and youth development, healthcare, medical research, and other charitable purposes consistent with Conrad Prebys’s history of philanthropy in the community. Visit www.conradprebysfoundation.org/
For Information contact:
412 338 2657 (office)
412 496 0010 (cell)