Honoring Staff: 100 Years of Stewardship and Philanthropic Service

Perhaps the single greatest factor accounting for Carnegie Corporation’s success over the past 100 years is the quality and performance of its professional staff.  It is through the work of these high-performing women and men that the foundation’s strategic vision and programmatic priorities are brought to life. 

Conscientious administrators, managing matters ranging from grant payments to office management, or experts in their various fields, they are the foundation’s de facto envoys embodying the institution’s history, culture, reputation and image. 

As Carnegie Corporation enters its centennial year, the trustees honor staff—past and present—for 100 years of sound stewardship and philanthropic service. 

In the Corporation’s 1973 annual report, then Carnegie Corporation President Alan Pifer writes “…the human qualities of its staff may in the end be far more important to what a foundation accomplishes than any other considerations.”

Pifer continues “If…they [foundation staff] have a genuine humility, are conscious of their own limitations, are aware that money does not confer wisdom, are humane, intellectually alive and curious people—men and women who above all else are eager to learn from others—the foundation they serve will probably be a good one.”

“Most foundation officers, I believe, think of themselves as fair-minded, open, considerate, and unpretentious sorts of people imbued with genuine humility and a self-effacing commitment to philanthropic work.”

Yet Pifer is careful to identify and warn against a kind of pervasive arrogance that permeates much of the foundation field. An arrogance that is unquestionably “the least attractive attribute of the philanthropic occupation and is cause for a veiled but nonetheless real hostility toward foundations.”

In his 1984 monograph Speaking Out: Reflections on 30 Years of Foundation Work, Pifer admonishes foundation staff not to succumb to a sense of their own self-importance:

"There are, however, just enough foundation officers from presidents on down of a quite different stripe to be cause for concern. These are the individuals…who go around exuding an air … apparent infallibility, who have fallen into the habit of pontificating rather than listening, who have become name droppers, who surround themselves with an aura of wealth, power and prestige, and who are patronizing toward grant seekers and are largely insensitive to their feelings and inconsiderate of their needs. These people would be shocked if they were charged with such faults because they quite genuinely believe that simply being part of a profession as worthy as philanthropy automatically makes them worthy people too.