Volume XIII | Issue 2 | Fall 2013
Anne Kubisch assumed the duties of president and CEO of the Foundation on May 15, 2013. Photo: Michael J. Lessner

Anne Kubisch: New president, CEO

Takes the reins from Norm Smith

Anne Kubisch has spent much of her professional career studying the best ways to create strong and healthy communities. In her 19 years at the Aspen Institute in New York, Kubisch’s role was as an evaluator, a researcher, and a distiller and disseminator of lessons learned. She is considered a national expert on community building, child and family wellbeing, philanthropy, and evaluation and learning. 

putting theory into practice

But after a career of big-picture thinking, Kubisch says, it was time for her to put theory into practice, and she plans to do that as the new president and CEO of The Ford Family Foundation.  

“I can sit in New York and write books and exhort people to do all the stuff that we’ve learned has worked, but what’s hard is actually making it happen,” Kubisch says. “How do you implement it? What does it take to really make it happen on the ground? It’s all about going from lessons to action, from big think to practical, on-the-ground work, and doing that in a way that respects and responds to community history, leadership and priorities.

“This is my chance to be committed and deeply engaged in a place where I can take these national lessons and put them into place, working with the fabulous partners, organizations, community leaders and grantees in The Ford Family Foundation network.”

Kubisch assumed her new duties on May 15, taking over from Norm Smith, who retired after 16 years in the position. She is the founder and director of the Aspen Roundtable on Community Change, a national resource center that gleans lessons about how to improve outcomes for low-income children, families and neighborhoods, and advises policymakers, funders and practitioners on strategies for promoting vibrant and equitable communities. 

Kubisch holds a master’s degree from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Tufts University. 

Besides the attraction of the job, Kubisch and her family were drawn to Oregon by the quality of life. Kubisch, 57, is married to Mark Montgomery, a professor at Stony Brook University in New York. They have two teen-age children. “We’re moving from a second-floor apartment overlooking the dirty, busy, Harlem area of New York City. I’m overwhelmed by the beauty of Oregon,” she says.

But the beauty is not blinding her to the work that needs to be done. “One of the things that I don’t think I really knew about Oregon is the level of poverty in rural areas,” she says. “I thought of it as a beautiful resource-rich state, but in many places the economic engine has fallen out with not much to replace it. There’s a lot of work ahead.”

Kubisch has spent her first few months getting to know systems, the staff and the board at the Foundation. She’s looking forward to soon spending more time traveling to rural communities throughout Oregon and Northern California, and learning more about what’s happening there.

“I believe one of the lessons we’ve learned from the last 20-30 years of doing this work is that you need community leadership and capacity to make things happen,” Kubisch says. “The reason that this foundation is so exciting to me is because it so clearly committed to that concept—it understands deep in its DNA that community capacity is core.

“I feel incredibly lucky that I can carry out the vision of Kenneth Ford,” Kubisch adds. “I get to step into a position where Norm Smith took a foundation from nothing and created the well-respected, high-functioning, incredibly well-staffed organization that it is.”  

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