Johnson Center names new W.K. Kellogg Community Philanthropy Chair

Michael Layton
Michael Layton
Image Credit: Courtesy Photo

The Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy has named a new W.K. Kellogg Community Philanthropy Chair. This position — the nation’s first endowed chair focused on community philanthropy — was established at the Johnson Center in 2015.

Michael Dennis Layton is the second person to hold the position, and will conduct research and analysis that will inform the nonprofit community about the importance and impact of community-focused philanthropy.

Layton began his career as the founder and director of the New Kensington Community Development Corporation in the Philadelphia neighborhood where he was born and raised. He pursued a doctorate in order to better understand the history and core values of democracy in the United States.

After teaching at Wesleyan and Yale universities, he founded and directed the Philanthropy and Civil Society Project at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM) in Mexico City, where he developed a groundbreaking research and advocacy program to understand and strengthen philanthropy and civil society.

More recently, he has worked as a consultant for a range of philanthropies, nonprofits and aid agencies. 

“I am truly honored and deeply grateful for my appointment as the W.K. Kellogg Community Philanthropy Chair and to become part of the Johnson Center and Grand Valley State University. Throughout my career I have moved between nonprofit and philanthropic practice and academia, and this position at this Center is – for me – the best of both worlds,” Layton said. “My career has been characterized by a movement between research and practice. As an academic, I have always wanted my research to have relevance for the community of practice. As a practitioner, I have always wanted to draw upon the rigor of academic research. So, opportunities to integrate research and practice have given me the greatest professional and personal satisfaction.”

Layton’s previous research has included studies of regulation and self-regulation in the nonprofit sector, community foundations in Mexico, and how giving at a community level impacts community empowerment. 

Layton’s first article at the Johnson Center addresses comments made by the President of Mexico about philanthropy in the United States.

Layton earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in political science from Duke University, holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Haverford College, and is a proud graduate of Philadelphia’s Central High School.