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Press Release

Lydia Villarreal Elected Chair of The James Irvine Foundation Board of Directors

The James Irvine Foundation announced today the election of Lydia Villarreal, Superior Court Judge of Monterey County, as Chair of The James Irvine Foundation Board of Directors. Villarreal’s election comes at a pivotal time for the Foundation, which recently began grantmaking with a new focus: expanding economic and political opportunity for working Californians who are struggling with poverty.

“In a time of great change for the state of California – and for the Irvine Foundation – it’s an honor to have Lydia chair our Board of Directors,” said Don Howard, president and CEO of the Irvine Foundation. “Irvine will benefit from Lydia’s wealth of experience and wisdom as a judge and as a community leader, and we’re also excited about the unique perspectives and leadership she will bring as our first Latina leader and first Chair from the Salinas Valley.”

Villarreal, who will become presiding judge in Monterey County in 2018, has been on the Superior Court bench since 2001. A California native, she has spent her professional life in the Salinas Valley and devoted much of her career to organizing low-income workers, particularly farmworkers.

She worked for eight years for California Rural Legal Assistance and then founded the Center for Community Advocacy, a Salinas nonprofit that helps empower low-income families to improve their housing conditions and offers health and educational programs for farmworkers in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties.

“This is a tremendous privilege,” Villarreal said. “I’m honored to work with the board and staff of the Irvine Foundation at such an important time. I’m excited about the role that the Foundation can play to support programs that address the pervasive problems of income inequality and to nurture models that can impact a greater number of Californians.’’

Villarreal joined Irvine’s board in October 2006 and will serve a three-year term as Chair, beginning in January. She will succeed Gregory Avis (cofounder and advisor of Summit Partners, a Palo Alto-based private equity and venture capital firm), who is retiring from the board after 13 years of service.

Villarreal also serves on the board of the Center for Community Advocacy and has previously served on the boards of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Elkhorn Slough Foundation.

The Irvine Foundation is governed by an independent Board of Directors, which is responsible for ensuring that the Foundation manages its finances, operations, and grantmaking programs to advance its mission and goals.


About The James Irvine Foundation

The James Irvine Foundation is a private, nonprofit grantmaking foundation dedicated to expanding opportunity for the people of California. The Foundation’s grantmaking focuses on expanding economic and political opportunity for families and young adults who are working but struggling with poverty. Since 1937 the Foundation has provided over $1.5 billion in grants to more than 3,600 nonprofit organizations throughout California. With about $2 billion in assets, the Foundation made grants of $74 million in 2015. For more information, please visit our website: