New Johnson Center executive director named

After a broad-reaching national search, Lesley D. Slavitt, an Illinois native with nearly three decades of experience in philanthropy and higher education, has been named the next executive director of the Johnson Center for Philanthropy. Slavitt started on April 3. 

Across her career, Slavitt has held several leadership positions at corporate foundations. As COO of the Bank One Foundation, she helped steer its merger with the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, and served as senior advisor to the chairman of the JPMorgan Chase Foundation. She also served as the head of Civic Engagement and CEO of Fiat Chrysler’s Foundation.

Slavitt also previously oversaw civic affairs and communications for Roosevelt University in Chicago (one of the most diverse private universities in the Midwest) and worked in urban innovation. In 2020, she led initiatives in the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ COVID-19 response. Slavitt holds a doctorate in planning from The Bartlett School of the Built Environment at University College London.

“Dr. Slavitt brings a wealth of experience and expertise that will help the Johnson Center elevate its nationally recognized work helping people and organizations advance and strengthen their philanthropic efforts,” said Philomena V. Mantella, president of GVSU. “She brings a global perspective and a keen understanding that the Johnson Center is a rare and exciting opportunity for deep impact.”

A person smiles in a posed photo.
Lesley D. Slavitt is the eighth executive director for the Johnson Center.

Slavitt joins the Johnson Center at a dynamic moment in its history. The center is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Its researchers are helping to lead groundbreaking studies on donor advised funds, giving circles, and international philanthropy, and its professional development offerings are expanding to provide opportunities for philanthropy practitioners to serve communities with excellence and a commitment to equity.

“The Johnson Center is at the forefront of translational work bridging research and practice that catalyzes the philanthropic sector’s advancement. As an organization with a track record of valuing people, data-informed decision making, and life-long learning, it is a center of excellence that reflects and extends the ideals of GVSU,” says Slavitt. “It is a privilege to join such dedicated and talented colleagues and serve as executive director of this unparalleled organization as it enters its fourth decade of transformative work.”

The Johnson Center was established at GVSU in 1992 with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and GVSU. Their mission is to be a global leader in helping individuals and organizations understand, strengthen, and advance philanthropy, resulting in a smart, adaptive sector that helps create strong, inclusive communities.



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