Greetings friends and colleagues,
I have some unfortunate news to share. I will be stepping down from my position at Ascendium to focus on some personal health issues, effective Friday, Dec. 16. I take comfort in the capabilities of Ascendium and the Education Philanthropy team to continue Ascendium’s grantmaking with great dedication and focus.
My journey into the world of philanthropy was not a straight line. As a new auditor working for a large accounting firm, I was assigned to work with an education finance company named Great Lakes. This is when I first got to know the company and met Chairman, President & CEO Dick George. Soon afterwards, I joined Great Lakes to create the internal audit division. After a few years, I convinced Dick to let me move into an operational role, where I led a team of people dedicated to helping borrowers avoid defaulting on their federal student loans. I was later given the opportunity to be part of the creation of Great Lakes' (now Ascendium's) postsecondary education philanthropy program. To see it grow from a regional giving program with just over $422,000 in grants in 2006 to a national program with more than $122 million in grantmaking this year has been incredibly rewarding.
In addition to my colleagues at Ascendium, and especially the Education Philanthropy team, I want to thank all the people I’ve had the pleasure of learning with and from all these years. The personal friendships I’ve formed with so many of you has brought me immense satisfaction. The knowledge and insight you’ve provided me, coupled with the passion for what you do and the people you serve, is such an inspiration. I will be eagerly watching for changes and developments across the field.
Ascendium will begin a national search for my replacement in the next few weeks. Information about the search will be shared in an upcoming newsletter and on our social media. In the meantime, Director - Education Grantmaking Keith Witham will be Interim Lead. I have the highest confidence in his ability to lead the team’s work to improve postsecondary education and workforce training systems so that more learners from low-income backgrounds can achieve economic mobility.