Community Foundation gets new leader

Wilcox brings leadership, fund-raising skills

April 29, 2000|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,SUN STAFF

The longtime headmaster of a Massachusetts boarding school will be the next president of the Baltimore Community Foundation, with the goal of more than doubling the foundation's assets in the next five years.

A search committee of five trustees from the community foundation chose Thomas E. Wilcox, headmaster of Concord Academy north of Boston, from about 200 candidates in a national search.

He will replace Timothy D. Armbruster, who for 10 years was president of the growing community foundation and the older Morris Goldseker Foundation. During that time, the Community Foundation, which pools money from donors to provide grants, grew from $10 million to $100 million.

Wilcox, 52, is credited with turning around Concord Academy, a day and boarding school with about 325 students. When he started there in 1981, it was a struggling former girls' school, recently converted to coeducation, with an endowment of less than $1 million.

Now the endowment stands at $32 million, boosted in part by nine seven-figure gifts solicited by Wilcox.

Walter D. Pinkard Jr., the foundation's chairman and leader of the search committee, said Wilcox's fund-raising acumen and improvement of the school set him apart from other candidates.

"People don't write million dollar checks unless they believe in the leadership," Pinkard said.

Pinkard said one of the board's goals for Wilcox is to increase the foundation's assets to $250 million in the next five years. "One of the things we were very much looking for was philanthropic leadership that really can pull together the community," he said.

Wilcox, who will officially start his new job in September, said his immediate task will be to learn about Baltimore, where he has spent little time. He and his wife, Elizabeth Whitney Ransome, executive director of the National Coalition of Girls' Schools, are looking for a home in the city. They have two teen-agers.

"I just expect to roll up my sleeves and learn and listen," Wilcox said.

"I come with no agenda about what should happen, other than that I am excited about philanthropy, and I love working with people who have wealth and want to share it, and who have a vision."

Wilcox said his attitudes toward philanthropy have been influenced not only by his recent experience as the headmaster of a private school, but also by his upbringing in Riverdale, N.Y., a part of the Bronx then ethnically diverse.

Later, Wilcox worked on urban projects while a headmaster, overseeing the creation of New England Citybridge, an effort to prepare inner-city middle school students for academically rigorous secondary schools and to train high school and college students for teaching careers.

He also has been an adviser to the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, one of the largest in the country.

When Wilcox announced in December that he would leave Concord, he said he wanted to work on another such project, to improve training in math and science for minority students. It's an initiative that the community foundation might be interested in starting in Baltimore, Pinkard said.

Armbruster, who will remain president of the Goldseker Foundation and plans to work closely with Wilcox, said he is pleased by the appointment.

"He's mature, he's thoughtful, he's very entrepreneurial," Armbruster said. "I feel very comfortable leaving what we've built with him."

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