Cleveland Foundation president & CEO Ronn Richard announces plans to retire in second half of 2023

Release Date: 01.12.2023

Photo by McKinley Wiley

CLEVELAND – Cleveland Foundation president & CEO Ronn Richard has informed the organization’s board of directors that he intends to retire in the second half of 2023. Richard has been at the helm of the foundation since July 1, 2003.

The foundation has hired a transition consultant that will work with an ad hoc committee of the Cleveland Foundation Board of Directors to develop a CEO profile that will guide the committee in selecting the 10th head of the world’s first community foundation. No specific timeline has been set for the hiring of Richard’s successor.

“Ronn will leave a remarkable legacy as president and CEO of the Cleveland Foundation,” said Constance Hill-Johnson, chairperson of the Cleveland Foundation Board of Directors. “His term has been marked by a multitude of successes and achievements that have put us in a solid position, with strong programs and partnerships and a record endowment. Most recently, he has led the work to create a new headquarters for the foundation located in the heart of MidTown, allowing us to make an even greater impact on the city in alignment with our mission.”

Richard, who turns 67 on Jan. 25, will conclude his tenure as the second-longest serving head of the foundation, behind only Leyton E. Carter (1928-53).

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to lead the Cleveland Foundation for the past two decades,” said Richard. “I leave knowing our organization has worked with local partners to achieve transformational change and am confident the foundation’s future is bright thanks to a wonderful board, a marvelous staff, a record endowment and tremendous working relationships with local leaders in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. I’m also grateful to the foundation’s donors, who have allowed us to do so much for the community as a result of their generosity.”

Among the accomplishments during Richard’s time at the foundation are:

  • Spearheading the foundation’s historic move to MidTown and the construction of a new headquarters at Euclid Avenue and East 66th Street, which will give the foundation greater visibility and provide more accessibility to the community.
  • Leading the curation of additional future development around the HQ, beginning with the MidTown Collaboration Center, which will bring anchor institutions into the neighborhood to provide essential services to the community.
  • Playing a leading role in developing and implementing a plan for transforming public education in Cleveland that has helped reimagine the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and has contributed to the unprecedented increase in four-year high-school graduation rates from 52.2% for the class of 2010 to 80.9% for the class of 2020.
  • Doubling the foundation’s endowment from $1.5 billion in 2003 to more than $3 billion today, while also revitalizing the foundation’s fundraising efforts, which led to record year-over-year gifts to the foundation.
  • Increasing the foundation’s grantmaking to record levels, including more than $100 million to the Greater Cleveland community each of the past six years.
  • Helping launch Say Yes to Education Cleveland with a $40 million gift – the largest grant in Cleveland Foundation history and one of the biggest ever by a community foundation – and helping to raise an additional $52 million as chair of the Say Yes Cleveland scholarship committee.
  • Heading the foundation’s centennial efforts in 2014, which included seven-figure grants for the transformation of Cleveland Public Square and the Cleveland Metroparks’ Centennial Lake Link Trail as well as $10 million each for the Cleveland Orchestra and Case Western Reserve University’s new school of medicine on the Cleveland Clinic campus.
  • Convening and leading the Greater University Circle Initiative, which included the creation of the Uptown neighborhood and the Evergreen Cooperatives.
  • Creating the Creative Fusion and Arts Mastery programs to lift the importance of the arts through both international artist-in-residence programming and by providing the highest quality arts programs for Cleveland youth.
  • Serving as chairman of the board of North America’s first freshwater offshore wind project, LEEDCo’s Project Icebreaker on Lake Erie.
  • Catalyzing the Great Lakes Institute for Energy Innovation and the Center for Proteomics and Bioinformatics with multi-million-dollar grants to Case Western Reserve University.
  • Overseeing the creation of New Bridge Center for Arts & Technology, the MyCom youth development initiative and Encore Cleveland.
  • Creating the Coro and Cleveland Foundation Public Service Fellowships to help jumpstart the careers of young and minority leaders.
  • Helping start the Cleveland Innovation Project, bringing together Greater Cleveland Partnership, JumpStart, Fund for Our Economic Future and the foundation.
  • Launching the Cleveland Black Futures Fund and the Greater Cleveland COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund that raised nearly $4 million in its first week.
  • Investing more than $5 million in the NEOMED-Cleveland State University Partnership for Urban Health, an effort to recruit and train medical students from core city neighborhoods to boost the number of primary care health professionals and eliminate health disparities.
  • Supporting University Hospitals’ UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Ahuja Center for Women & Children in MidTown as well as the UH Center for Diabetes & Obesity, which will be housed in the future Midtown Collaboration Center.

“Together, we have accomplished so much over the past 20 years, and I have no intention of slowing our momentum as I prepare to retire,” said Richard. “Before I pass the torch to my successor, I look forward to opening our new headquarters in MidTown and continuing our work across Greater Cleveland to promote innovation, prosperity and opportunity for the benefit of our entire community.”

Prior to heading up the foundation, Richard was managing director and chief operating officer of In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital fund. In this role, he worked to ensure the prompt and effective delivery of new technologies to the U.S. intelligence community. 

Before joining In-Q-Tel, Richard spent 13 years at Panasonic in key management positions, including president of the company’s North American research and development operations; president of Panasonic Home & Commercial Products Company, a major sales and marketing division of Panasonic USA; president of Panasonic Strategic Ventures Company, in charge of mergers and acquisitions and strategic alliances; vice president for planning, technology, and public affairs, which included heading up Panasonic’s corporate philanthropy; and vice president for internet business development. 

From 1983 to 1988, Richard was a career U.S. Foreign Service officer, serving at the American Consulate General in Osaka/Kobe, Japan, and as a desk officer for North Korean, Greek and Turkish affairs, respectively, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. He was also a Pearson Program fellow in San Francisco, where he researched and reported on U.S.-East Asian and U.S.-Latin American trade, investment flows and technology transfers.

Richard began his career as director of the national public affairs program service at the nonprofit Japan Society in New York City.

Richard is married to Bess Rodriguez, an artist and former U.S. diplomat, and has two children, Susanna and Nicholas. Nicholas recently passed the State Department’s Foreign Service Exam, with the goal of following in his parents’ footsteps in the U.S. Diplomatic Corps.

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