The head of one of Chicago’s largest foundations is stepping down to become president of Spelman College.
Helene Gayle announced Monday that she is leaving the Chicago Community Trust in June to lead the historically black women’s university in Atlanta. She said she thought running the Trust would be her last job, but she couldn’t turn down ‘the opportunity to continue shaping the lives of young women of African descent, many of whom have gone on to illustrious careers’ .
Under his leadership, Gayle shifted the foundation’s focus to promoting racial equity and guiding community groups throughout the pandemic.
When the pandemic hit in 2020, Gayle mobilized the foundation’s response within days by managing a COVID-19 relief fund. According to Trust management, assets grew from about $2.8 billion to $4.7 billion during his tenure. Last year, $1.7 billion in grants were awarded through the Trust and affiliated donor-driven programs. Additionally, the foundation adopted a 10-year strategic plan to address wealth inequality in the region, assembled a new policy team, and changed the way it makes grants.
“We were able to chart a path of trust that focused on the issues of closing the racial and ethnic wealth gap,” Gayle said. She points to the creation of a coalition that expanded the Illinois Earned Income Tax Credit and capped interest rates on payday loans.
Gayle, a public health doctor specializing in diseases, joined the Trust in 2017 after leading CARE, an international humanitarian organisation. Previously, she spent two decades at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention working on HIV/AIDS.
“Chicago welcomed me so warmly. It was a city that bleeds from Chicago and cares about its neighbors. And even though it’s still a deeply divided city, there really is a deep sense of interest in the city. It has an incredible civic footprint, a civic community that comes together in a way I’ve never seen in any of the cities,” Gayle said.
WBEZ receives funding from the Chicago Community Trust.
Natalie Moore is a reporter for WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. You can follow her on Twitter at @natalieymoore.