Board Chairs (Family & Independent)

The Nathan Cummings Foundation

 

Board Chairs (Family & Independent)

Ernest Tollerson
Independent Trustee, Nathan Cummings Foundation

Adam Cummings
Trustee, Nathan Cummings Foundation

I think Nathan Cummings has the best of the both worlds. It’s a family foundation where the values and strategy are set by the family, but at the same time the execution of the grant-making is done by a professional staff working on behalf of the family and that works extremely well. I’ve been a board member for more than 6 years now. I’ve been on other boards and no fair number of foundations and organizations and I actually think that Nathan Cummings Foundation is sort of a high performing institution. It has creative tension, but it’s supposed to have creative tension and the commitment to taking smart risks, not just any risk, but smart risk in grant-making and you think of the things we’ve done in the environmental area. When you think of areas where people first scratched their head and said, “arts and social justice, well what’s that?” In fact, when I came on the board, I would say that people were probably scratching their heads about why focus on arts and social justice? As we know now, many years later, it’s an established field and you can see universities creating programs around it and you can see exhibitions at museums. Now it’s sort of established and that, to me, is an example of the way the Nathan Cummings Foundation has affected the way we think about different kinds of issues. We get there early, we define the field and over time people see the wisdom of it and begin to adopt what we’ve defined. One of the satisfactions of being a member of the Nathan Cummings Foundation that we know that there is this DNA, both in family members and in the kind of staff recruited to sort of identify tough issues, identify how to frame those issues, get out there and not be afraid when people don't understand it at first, because after a while, whether it’s contemplative practice or arts and social justice, the rest of the country and other parts of the world will come along and sort of see the value of why we struck off in that direction. I think that’s one of the things that everyone at the Nathan Cummings Foundation can take a great deal of pride in.