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From the President: Hope and Opportunity Print E-mail
Don Howard
Don Howard
Interim President and CEO


I’m feeling hopeful. I’m hopeful that addressing inequitable and unsustainable gaps in opportunity is truly emerging as a priority in our nation, as evidenced by the President’s “Opportunity Agenda,” and here in California, where I see a growing recognition of the ever-widening disparities between socio-economic groups and between our inland and coastal regions. This recognition is a tribute to the tenacious and creative efforts of social sector leaders and their communities who have brought attention and solutions forward to our profound opportunity gaps. Even though we still live in a state and country where your zip code can predict your social mobility and life expectancy, I’m hopeful that expanding access to opportunity will have broad enough importance and urgency across ethical, economic, and political lines to become a shared goal.

Perhaps, I’m hopeful because we at the James Irvine Foundation, like so many of you, have committed ourselves to this very goal for Californians. We see the insidious and unfair effects of opportunity being inaccessible to so many people. We also see, in the work that so many of you do, the tremendous potential for proven approaches and innovative solutions to improve access to opportunity and to strengthen individuals, families, communities, and society.

This is what motivates us at Irvine, where we see signs of hope such as the recent launch of the state’s new $250 million California Career Pathways Trust fund and the spread of the education reform Linked Learning throughout California, with the promising evidence that it provides more opportunity for California’s youth to graduate from high school ready for college and career.

It’s that kind of work that has me excited, as I step into the role of Irvine’s Interim President and CEO today.

In one way, this marks a transition, as we bid farewell to our former CEO Jim Canales and begin the search for our next CEO. But in more ways than not, today we remain focused on fueling that growing momentum to expand opportunity for all Californians. I’m enormously fortunate to part of a strong and longstanding leadership team at Irvine that is wholly committed to continuing this important work already in motion. That has been the charge from our board of directors, who are actively engaged with, and recently endorsed, the strategies of each of our programs and initiatives. Our mantra for 2014 is “full steam ahead.”

These are exciting days at Irvine. And the Linked Learning work is but one example. Last month, 10 grantee-partner arts organizations came together to kick off a peer-learning community as part of the New California Arts Fund, exploring how they might expand and integrate the ethos of engaging their communities across their organizations—again, working to provide greater opportunity to Californians. These organizations are building bridges and bonds that will benefit us all.

And, in less than two weeks, we’ll announce the recipients of the 2014 James Irvine Foundation Leadership Awards, recognizing and supporting individuals who are advancing uniquely innovative and effective solutions to significant issues in California. Our plan at Irvine is to stay focused on the important efforts that we have in place.

Throughout my period as interim president and CEO, I encourage you to contact me directly; not just through the feedback form on the website, through which we always encourage you to write us, but also via my email at dhoward at irvine.org. I am eager to hear your ideas, concerns, and feedback on our work.

We don’t anticipate that you’ll notice any significant changes during this period outside of the ordinary; only the excitement and energy of an organization constantly focused on expanding opportunity.


Donald J. Howard
Interim President and CEO